Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - A Sunday Night Rock Show with The Circle

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).

“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.

“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.

It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.

The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.

“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.

“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.

Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.

It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.

Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.

They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 – Night Gallery’s Revival

This night was ladies night at The Curtain Club. Something that doesn’t often happen. In fact, I don’t remember them ever doing a ladies night in the eight plus years I’ve been going there. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened though (I mean, my memory’s not perfect.)

It was more than that, though. This was the night the yearlong hiatus Night Gallery had taken came to an end. They were just one of several great bands playing this night, though, and everyone was headline quality.

Around 8:30 isn’t usually late to get to a show, but it was this night, and when I walked in Agents of Solace was finishing up their first song.

It had been awhile since I last saw the band, after first stumbling across them here at the Curtain sometime about a couple years ago, probably.
imageThe group’s female vocalist, Macie — who did most of the lead singing this night — chatted with the crowd for a second before the alt/rock band tackled another song, one that was quite good at that. “Are there any Halestorm fans out there?!” Macie asked after it was over, getting a reaction from some of the people. “Familiar Taste of Poison” was the track they tried their hand at, and it sounded amazing. Everyone, old fans and those who were hearing of Agents of Solace for the first time, were in total awe of Macie’s voice. They put their own little twist on the song in some ways, and it was one of their best ones of the night. It wasn’t the only cover they did, either.

Macie mentioned they had a Youtube channel, and on it, they had a video for their next song. “It’s kinda freaky. Whatever freaky means to you.” she said, as they began “Voyeurs”. Jeff Williamson had been adding some backing vocals here and there throughout the first couple of songs, though his guitar had been his primary focus. However, he showed off his voice much more now, as they split the vocal responsibilities, even harmonizing at times. It was a beast of a song, too, with Jeff and Tom Williamsons’ guitars roaring to life, then eventually tapering back off, while Keith Watson delivered some vicious beats.

That won them some more rave applause, and once it subsided, Macie mentioned they were going to do an older song, one off their debut, self-titled record, per a fan request. It was switched up from the recording, and again showcased Macies’ voice more than Jeffs’, though he did chime in at times on “City of Man”. Chip Kohr seemed to get into it, too, and was rocking out on his bass quite hard.
imageUpon finishing it, Jeff unplugged his electric axe and swapped it out for an acoustic, as Macie informed everybody they were going to do a new song, one they had just learned the week before. “Actually, just last night.” she joked. It was called “Gravity”, and the outfit’s softer side was on display during it. Every act needs a song like that, and it added some diversity to the set. I’d say the track is a keeper, too.

Macie noted their last song was all about having fun, and some audience participation would be required. “So you better fucking participate!” she said, before threatening to slap those who didn’t. It didn’t sound like a threat to be too afraid of, though. I’ll admit, I knew that I knew this cover, though it took me forever to place it, which is kinda bad, since I’ve seen The Pretty Reckless twice in the last month. Agents of Solace put their own little spin on “Heaven Knows”, complete with a clap along at the start and other points throughout the track. They even got the audience to sing along with them on one of the later choruses, “Oh, Lord, heaven knows we belong way down below.”

Thus ended their time on stage, and I have to say, AOS was better this night than I remembered them being.
imageHonestly, I can’t remember if Macie was in the band when I first saw them, though I don’t believe she was. She adds a remarkable dynamic to the group, though. Apart from that, these seasoned musicians make some excellent music. I mean, “Voyeurs” has a pretty original sound to it; and they put on a highly enjoyable stage show as well.

As of now, it looks like their next show is going to be on September 27th at Andy’s in Denton. Regarding their music, you can grab a couple of free downloads on their REVERBNATION page, and pick up the full record in iTUNES.

After them you had The Circle, who had not played Dallas since back in January, when the Curtain Club was celebrating their sixteenth year in business.

At 9:33 their intro music started, and drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls quickly ripped into their first song. “We thought we’d start off with a new on! Is that alright?!” frontman Don Mills asked as he walked on stage. People seemed game for it.
imageThey came out swinging with that new number, “Break This”, which was one of the most impressive songs I’ve heard The Circle do. It was heavy, it was loud and it was in-your-face. The performance that accompanied it was rather savage as well, as the five of them went all out; and towards the end Don, who had been standing atop one of their boxes with The Circle name and logo on it, jumped off it, landing close to the drum riser. It gave everyone quite the rush, including them.

“So, I was saying to Jordan earlier, next time there’s a ladies night, we need to call it guys night out.” Don joked. Yeah, as he and I had said earlier in the night, it was kind of a sausage fest, especially early on. I blame another show that was happening elsewhere in Deep Ellum, featuring an acclaimed Dallas act. That was probably where most of the ladies where choosing to spend their night at. But I digress.

Don’s statement was made over the transition his band mates made into their next number, “Save Me”, which was one of a few songs they did this night that seemed to pack even more of a punch than it has in the past. Honestly, until they got to the chorus, I was thinking it was another new one they were debuting. Don used a break he got during the song to dedicate the show and the night in general to all the beautiful women who were in attendance.
imageThe last time I saw The Circle, their show had a nice flow to it, and that applied for much of this night as well, and now Craig segued them into “What Do You Say?”, showing off his skills later on while playing a killer solo. Don used his breaks to have some fun, saying that they don’t lip sync their songs. “…You don’t do that in Dallas, Texas!” he roared, which I believe was a jab at Puddle of Mudd and their debacle of a show a few months back where they were caught faking it. “I don’t care who you are, you sing your damn songs!” Don declared at the end, while his band mates rolled them right into “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”.

Kenneth was his usual highly energetic self during the track, screaming into his mic as he aided Don on parts of the chorus, while tearing it up on his bass, and even jumped atop the box on his side of the stage at times. At the final chorus, Dons’ mic stand fell apart on him. He grabbed the stand and carried it over to the staircase, then returned for the base, singing the whole time he was getting it out of the way.

“I got told this was my last show as the singer.” he said during the first break they took this night. “If you saw Agents of Solace, you know why.” Don added, mentioning how amazed he was by their set as he piled on the praise. As he spoke, the intro for “Failure” suddenly started to play, signifying they were ready to move on (and finally get to the debut EP they released about a year ago.) It was pretty action packed, and Kenneth spent the last bit of the track up on the drum riser, while Marc let loose the thunderous beats on his massive drum kit.
imageRight as it came to an end, Dayvoh, of the band Alterflesh, approached the stage, carrying several shots he had bought for his friends. “You know what I’m going to say…” Don said after they all had one in hand, as he made is typical, “Local music is the greatest music that never gets heard” speech. Truer words have never been spoken, and it’s a sentiment everyone always agrees with. He went on to say that, they had a song that they had retired some time back. Then it got rewritten, and then it made a comeback to the live show. The song in question was one that has become a favorite of mine over the last few times I’ve seen The Circle, and it’s called “Monster”. It sounded like a brand new song this night, though. It had an even harder edge than what I recall from the past few times, and Don did a hefty amount of screaming on the track, something that he doesn’t do often, but he can pull it off with ease when he needs to. It ended with Alan and Craig each stepping onto the boxes, spending some time on one before alternating, brandishing their axes in the air.

I think they were warmed up by now, and they drew a sudden startled look from the crowd when a piece of techno music began to play. “We’re gonna start going techno.” Don said rather matter-of-factly. Another toast was then made, again going to the woman. “…Deep Ellum have some of the most beautiful woman around.” he remarked, something else everyone there agreed with. Out of nowhere, the techno track broke into the sample intro for “The Other Side”. I must say, it was strange not hearing them open with that one, though the choice they made was a good one, and it worked well at the tail end of the show. Actually, I had been waiting all night for them to get to it.

With fifteen minutes left, they broke out “You Wanted This”, which, in comparison to some of their other stuff, I thought was a slightly chill track. Still rocking, though it wasn’t as hard and heavy as some other songs. It did feature another solo from Craig, though, a solo that was comprised of some incredibly cool notes. “Are you with us?!” Don bellowed as they moved right into the next track, “Tonight”. It was another new one, and one he said they had written about a week ago.

“There’s a huge list of who’s who here tonight.” Don mentioned as they geared up for their next song. From band members to other media outlets, there were a lot of people there, and too many to name.
imageTheir 41-minute long set began to wind down with the two remaining songs from their EP, like the powerful “I Am”. “…Every time I see your face you’re bringing me down. Turn your back on me, like you did that day…” goes the start of the chorus of the song that has a message of acceptance with it. They whipped it right into their single, “Sleep On it”, and as soon as it began, Don began joking with the guitarist of Solice, Juan, asking if he’d catch him when he jumped off the stage. It didn’t stay a joke for long, and soon a group of a dozen or more people formed, just waiting for Don to make his move. It came after he invited Kenneth’s nephew, Tyler, on stage, letting him sing part of the bridge. Don then got his mic back, walked to the edge of the stage, turned his back to everyone and fell backwards. He was caught, and the group carried him back just a few steps before walking back towards the stage, lifting him up and back on it to finish out the show.

This was an incredible Circle show. Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen them awhile, but still, this one of the best performances I think they’ve put on. They were as tight as I’ve ever seen them, and the near constant pacing of music ensured there was never a dull moment.

It was also nice hearing some new music from them. New music that with any luck will be recorded soon so we fans can have more than just four tracks to listen to.

Go grab the “Who I Am” EP in iTUNES. It’s cheap and it’s worth the price tag. They also have a show lined up at The Rail in Fort Worth on July 18th, and then a show at RBC in Dallas on August 10th, where they’ll be opening for Saving Able.

The turnaround time this night really surprised me. The bands were doing an amazing job of getting their gear off and on stage incredibly quickly, and as much as I love Curtain Club (as I’ve said countless times in the past, this is my favorite venue), quick turnarounds is something the place is known for.

So, around 10:30, the curtain began to open. Then close. Then open again. The members of Night Gallery were having some fun (hence, why the worker wasn’t sure if the curtain should be opened yet or not.) Frontman Patrick ”Otter” Gonzales was walking back and forth on the drum riser as if it were a tightrope, teetering on the edge. The audience (which numbered more than a hundred from the looks of it) was surprisingly quiet, and just stared at them. Then Otter threw his hands in the air, as if to say, “Come on, aren’t you more excited to see us than that?!”

Of course, people were, and now the noise level spiked.

The five guys shared a brief look at one another, making sure they were ready for this, and then, the new lead guitarist Brian Manly began the old, familiar sounds of “My Friend Pretend”. Three-fifths of the band may have been new, but the song sounded just like it always has. Well, maybe a little better, ‘cause as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Opening with the single from the “Loud as the Sun” record made it feel just like old times; and it didn’t take long for Otter to get back in his lead singer role, dragging his mic stand with him all around the stage. The mic stand that had a Cookie Monster plush toy taped to the bottom (along with tape over his mouth) and a small plush Incredible Hulk fixed more towards the top of the stand. Oh, how I had missed that one-of-a-kind mic stand.
imageThe crowd was given little time to applaud, as drummer Mikael Aguilar and the rest of the group launched into “Dirty Side”. “And I don’t want to speak to you, unless you want to speak the truth. I wipe the sand from eyes, and I see your dirty side.” Otter belted on the chorus, clearly feeling the rush of adrenaline that came with being back on a stage and performing these songs in front of people. “Those who know this song, feel free to sing along.” he remarked afterwards, as they went directly into the next track. “It’s called She Runs.” he mentioned. The only other old member, Jeremy Root, was also in the zone, quickly strumming his guitar on the chorus, getting caught up in the moment. As it neared the end, during the instrumental break before the final line, Otter spun and stamped around the stage, bringing the mic stand with him, as if it were a dancing partner.

Another fan favorite came next, and their fans rejoiced when “Crazy Brave” got underway. It was also the song that made me miss the old drummer, Randall “Duckie” Etherton, the most, because this was always one song that heavily featured him with backing vocals. “You feel the need to push the weak around; now you’re praying as your knees hit the ground. The time has come to break you of your ways, so lay down your arms and begin to beg.” Otter sang, while leaving the mic stand at the center of the stage and removing the mic from it. He dropped to the floor, gradually raising his voice each time he sang, “Beg”. That part still sounded good, though there was a definite forcefulness lacking without the additional vocals.

The way they had been going, I wasn’t sure if they were even going to stop, but now they did. “…We’ve burned through four songs and I haven’t even said anything to you yet…” Otter remarked, adding his usual sense of humor to the banter, saying that while it may have been ladies night, he would not be taking his shirt off. “…That’s too much sexiness…” he joked. However, they did have a couple songs for the ladies, the first of which was the ever so gorgeous, “Lynne”.

“I feel alive! I feel tickled down in my neither regions!” Otter exclaimed once the song was over. “Without Regret” came next, and I was more excited to hear that song than I thought I would be. Actually, it was probably my favorite of the night. “Shhhh.” Otter whispered into the mic during the soft instrumental break towards the end, and action I had forgotten he did every time. “This time there’s no safe bets, so let’s love without regret.” he crooned when the track came back to life.

“Feel free to sway.” he instructed, as Mikael led the charge into their next song. It wasn’t until Jeremy started his part that people knew it was “The Tide”. Something about the song made it sound even better this night than I think I’ve ever heard it. The rhythm section, which was completed by bassist Trey Williams, sounded great, but the biggest difference came after Otter repeatedly shouted, “Hey!” Brian then ripped into a guitar solo, something new that they’ve worked in during their time practicing. The solo itself sounded incredible, and it was a fantastic addition to the song. Another guitar solo spiced up “Separation Anxiety”, a tune that I wouldn’t have thought could possibly get any better, but they somehow found a way to improve it.

Given that it was ladies night, their song about Jack The Ripper, “Mr. Ripper”, seemed quite fitting, and it is another track that everyone of their fans love. Especially live. Despite the murderous content, it’s actually a very fun song. It was also the third straight that featured a new guitar piece, as Brian ran his finger along one of the strings, starting down on the body and going up the neck. Otter again danced about with his mic stand, succumbing to the music; and as it ended, Mikael stood from his seat to deliver the final drumbeats.
imageTheir 39-minute long set was nearly over, and Otter thanked everyone for coming out and for not forgetting about them. “The Signal” was one song that would have worked just as well as an opener as it did a closer. It’s a song that, on select occasions, has had more of a personal meaning to it. One of those was their CD release show a couple years back, and this was the second time I’ve seen them where that has applied. “…They tried to conform us, phase us out. Through shutting us down…” Otter sang on the first verse, before reaching the chorus, “They can’t stop the signal now…” The boxes belonging to The Circle had been left on stage, and at the bridge, Otter hopped on top of the one on stage right. “With one single voice, we resonate choice. Fight till the end, to overcome trend. Now coming in clear, no more static you hear. So take it from me, we’re not changing, you see?” That sums the band up perfectly, especially on a night like this.

I guess I’ll start by saying both Otter and Jeremy deserve some kudos for actually keeping this thing going. I can only imagine having to find three new band members is a daunting task, but they persevered, and it paid off.

This was one of the best Night Gallery shows I’ve seen. Were certain people missed? Yeah. Mikael’s a great drummer, though, and I thought he did a good job of filling the large shoes that were left. He was energetic and precise with his drumming; and I already mentioned how much I enjoyed the solos Brian had worked in, and when he needed to, he could shred. As for Trey, he was a solid bassist.

They meshed well with Otter and Jeremy, and even made it look like they actually had some live experience with one another under their belt.

Speaking of Jeremy, he really is a great guitarist, and he makes it all look pretty easy; and Otter, who for personal reasons has lost some weight in the last year, was more fiery than ever. Even he later said that made jumping and running around much easier to do, and he did more of it.

It was five years in this month of June since I first heard of Night Gallery, happening across them when I went to the Curtain Club to see a band who hasn’t been together for years now. They’ve been through their share of hard times in those five years. If memory serves correctly, Brian is the fourth guitarist they’ve had since I heard of them and Trey’s their third bassist. Night Gallery is no stranger to lineup changes.

But on the flip side, they’ve celebrated a lot of victories, many of them on this very stage. They got a plaque up on the Wall of Fame before they even had a CD out (June of 2010); they released their debut EP here in late 2010; they released their debut full-length here almost two years to the day of this show; and this night, this night they celebrated yet another rebirth.

As “The Signal” ended, Otter sang the final words as usual. “They! Can’t! Stop! Us!” he bellowed. The last notes filled the room and resonated; and then, in a defiant tone, he added, “But they sure as hell can try.”

Yeah, they’ve got a bit of a resilient spirit.

Night Gallery won’t play again until August 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, and from what I heard, some fall dates are already booked as well. But while we wait for more shows, be sure to pick up “Loud as the Sun” in iTUNES if you don’t have it.

Mad Mexicans were closing out the night, and personally, I’m just not a fan. I saw them a few years ago, I know what they’re like, and it’s just not a style of music I’m into.

So, I didn’t stick around too long after Night Gallery finished. Well, at least not inside. I was out on the patio mingling for a while, though.

Friday, January 17th, 2014 – The Curtain Clubs’ Sweet 16th (Night 1)

What club in Deep Ellum has been open for sixteen straight years?

The answer is The Curtain Club, and that makes it the longest continuously running venue in the Deep Ellum area.

This weekend the venue was making it official, doing a two night extravaganza with seven bands hitting the stage (that’s only counting the Curtain stage, not the Liquid Lounge stage) each night (Friday and Saturday), and just considering the bands I was familiar with, Friday’s lineup was not to be missed.

A couple of younger bands (both in terms of being new as well as the age of their members) were on deck first beginning with No Regrets, who was already playing when I got there a little before eight.

To clarify that about the age, these guys and girl were maybe about as old as the Curtain Club is, give or take a year or so.

Essentially, they were a cover band, and I didn’t take time to keep up with what they did, but I did enjoy what I saw of them.

In the sake of being honest, I was often on the fence about their frontwomans’ voice, which was often throaty sounding, and on some songs it just didn’t seem to fit, while on others, it really sounded great.

Some props also have to go to one of the guitarists, who broke one of his strings just a few songs into what was probably around a 30-minute set. He didn’t have a replacement, nor time to restring it, so he made do, readjusting one of his strings to compensate for the sound as best as he could and kept rocking.

Come on, how many musicians, be them a professional or just a teenager, would power through like that? I’ve seen just a little over six hundred concerts and I’ve never seen any musician play almost an entire show with a broken string like that, which should say something about this kid’s ability.

Not only were the sets from each band kept short this night, so was the time in between bands, as they hustled one bands gear off stage and the next ones on, giving about twenty minutes or so downtime between acts.

Vannah Red was up next. This trio was an original band, but I wasn’t feeling them much at first.

The music wasn’t necessarily bad, but I was none too keen on their singer/guitarists voice. I can’t even really pinpoint one thing wrong with it, except it just didn’t really appeal to me for the majority of their set.

I did start liking them a little more towards the back-end of their set, though, and there was one song they did that had a wickedly awesome bass solo.

Regardless of my thoughts on those first two bands, it was nice to see some kids down here playing music for a change, since so many of the bands in this scene have been kicking for awhile, or at the very least the members in them have been playing in different bands for years.

That said, now it was time for the pros to hit the stage, and first up was The Circle.

“Curtain Club, it’s been sixteen long years!” bellowed frontman Don Mills, who went on to point out what an achievement it is that the venue has never shuttered its doors. The curtain remained closed during that time, then finally began to open, revealing Don clutching the mic stand while standing on one of their boxes with the band’s name and logo on it, while bassist Kenneth Henrichs stood atop the one on stage right.

They then did something no one expected; they opened with “Sleep On it”. Allow me to put that in perspective. Before this one, I had seen The Circle eight times, and since they wrote it, this song has always been how they close their shows. “How are you doing?!” asked Don during his very brief break before they hit the first chorus. He held his beer up more towards the end of the song, toasting the Curtain, while Kenneth started in with some softer screams for the backing vocals. “I fall from my throne. I can’t stand alone.” It was a nice gradual build he gave it, before he and Don wound up alternating, each repeatedly screaming one of those lines.

I never would have pegged that one is being such a good opener, but damn, was it ever. It packs a little more of a punch than even most of their other songs, and here at the start of it all it set the tone extremely well, pumping everyone up and personally, it got me more excited than I’ve ever been at the start of a Circle show (for the record, that is saying something.)

“If you can’t read, we’re The Circle.” Don said, pointing out the boxes. “I know it’s cold outside, but if you start bouncing around you’ll warm up.” he added, while drummer Marc Berry, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls and Kenneth were already well into the intro of “I Am”. They were on point with that first song, and that carried over into this one, like on the instrumental breakdown after the second chorus, where they all thrashed around to the drumbeats, in perfect synch with one another. Don even took some liberties on the chorus, yelling on it more and adding a little more roughness to it, “Why do you try to walk away? Why do you try to bring me down? Why can’t you just understand this is who I am? This is who I am.”, which in turn gave it even more emotion.

They pretty much went from one song to the next, with next to no downtime in between, and followed that one up with “Save Me”. “There’s some cool artwork up there.” Don pointed out on their first real pause of the night. He was pointing to their plaque they had gotten two months before, which now adorns the storied Wall of Fame at the club. “There’s gonna be another one of those going up tomorrow night.” he said, referring to Generation Wasted, who would be getting their plaque.

That led them to the remaining two tracks from their debut EP, the first of which was “Failure”, and is about the closest thing to a love song as this hard rock outfit gets. Like everything else they did this night, it just a little extra kick to it. Part of that was probably because of the urgency their set had, as they tried to rush through things, but even lyrically and musically, it still seemed to heavier hitting. “I can’t hear it.” The five of them could be said saying to one another, looking puzzled. They were referring to the sample track that sets up “The Other Side”, which was completely inaudible out in the audience, until right at the end of it, when they ripped into the song. “I can see the tear that’s in your eye. Years of bad decisions on your face. You blame everyone for your mistakes. Can you hear me screaming that I’m here for you?!” Don crooned at the start, before the song, which is my personal favorite from their EP, entered its full-blown rock mode.

Up next was the special treat for the night. After their Wednesday night rehearsal just a couple of days prior a post was made on Facebook saying they had written a new song and would be debuting this night. “…Be honest. Give us a thumbs up or down if you think we should keep playing this one or not.” Don told the crowd before they started it. It was called “What You Say”, and I enjoyed it. It had a bit of a different sound from most of their other songs, but it was still The Circle. “Should we keep it?” Don asked everyone upon finishing it, while Marc led the charge into the next song, their final one for the night, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”.

I had loved the way they had gone from one song right to the next, giving the show a fantastic flow, but it turned out that made them so efficient, they actually had time left to kill. “The last time we played here we went thirty minutes over our time. But it was our plaque show, so who cares. Well, the band after us kind of did…” Don  stated, while they worked out what the next song would be. Craig quickly fired up “406”, another one I’m quite partial to, and was glad they wound up having time to play it.

As a closer, it worked nicely, and the curtain began to draw shut on the band. But guess what… They still had five minutes left.

“Do y’all want to hear more?” Don asked, truly leaving it up to the audience, who made it known they did. They quickly figured out what they were going to do, and Don pointed at me. “Jordan Buford, this one’s for you, since you said you like it so much.”

The song’s called “Monster”, which I later found out, is an old/new one. Old in the sense it has been around since the band had their first singer, but was only recently dusted off; allowing Don to start putting his mark on it. It really is an awesome song, with some somewhat simple, yet killer lead guitar lines on the verses, which is the primary reason I like it so much. Aside from that though, it’s just a solid song, and one that will no doubt be a staple song soon enough.

With that, their set stood at 36-minutes, and they really were done now. Don even joked about that after they finished, noting they really were getting off the stage now.

I’ve seen these guys put on some great and even memorable shows, but the one this night was something else entirely.

I enjoyed the way they rushed through it, giving the show a nice flow. That also made them push themselves to a different level, having to be so precise and in time with one another, which in turn allowed you to see just how tight they are.

As I mentioned earlier, they were spot on this night. The musicianship from Craig, Alan, Marc and Kenneth was outstanding, and Don was screaming on some lines I haven’t heard him do that on before, while other screams were even more forceful than usual, and it gave their set a whole new dynamic.

I’d say they were impeccable this night, and I think it might be awhile before this Circle show gets topped.

They do have a show coming up at Click’s in Tyler on February 1st, if you’re in the area. Also, go grab their “Who I Am” EP in iTUNES. It’s cheap and well worth it.

The remaining bands were some I hadn’t seen in a little while, and the first of those was The Raven Charter.

The opening song was still the same as it has been for a few years, and the dark, ominous sounds of “Survival Kit” beckoned everyone to the stage.

The curtain finally opened on the groups five instrumentalists, guitarists Brandon Bond and Daniel Baskind, bassist Anthony Sosa, keyboard player Erik Stolpe and drummer Brian Christie, all of whom came to life once the song hit its stride about a minute in. It still works as a great intro song, letting their musical prowess be the only thing you as an audience member can focus on, and they take full advantage of it, with those who can jumping and thrashing about, often brandishing their instruments in the air.

They had changed the song up slightly, though, and after a few minutes frontman Garrett Bond walked on stage, greeting the crowd. He didn’t start singing that song, though. Instead, they cut the remainder of the song, and whipped things right into one of their newer tracks, “No Direction”. “I sit on top of a hollow world…” Garrett wailed at the start of it, before the song eventually hit its lull, where he and his brother harmonized on some of the lines. It’s actually an up and down song, being an action packed rock number most of the time, but then there are moments like that, or when Garret does some near a cappella singing, and it’s that back and forth sound that makes the track so clever.

“How are we doing tonight?” he asked the tons of people who now had the club packed out. They cheered in response, but it wasn’t loud enough. He didn’t give the standard “Y’all can do better than that.” retort though. Instead, he was a little more honest with everyone. “Bullshit. I want more.” he declared, getting a bigger rise out of the people this time.

For the most part, their 35-minute set consisted of older songs, but they did have a couple of new songs worked in. Much newer than “No Direction” is, and ones I had never heard. Their next song was one of those, and it was the highlight of their set if you ask me. It was an adrenaline pumping number that had a killer and truly spectacular music bed, and I thought they pushed things to the limits with it. They even stepped things up from the previous song, as Daniel added his voice to the mix at times for some three part harmonies, like on the line, “If this is the last night ever, than I’m gonna make you mine.”

I’ve seen stuff online where they’ve talked about these new songs, saying it’s a different style for them, but it’s still them. That’s very accurate, and that song was a perfect example of that, because it was a far cry from the songs on their self-titled EP, or even their most recent EP, but there’s no denying it was still The Raven Charter.

Speaking of their first EP, they next dished out the single from the 2009 release, “Thousand Worlds”. There’s a central message to all of the songs from that album, a line said in several of the songs, which is; “Anything is possible and everything will happen.” It’s all a bit of uplifting, and as that song drew to a close, there wound up being a new touch they had added to the end. I was a little stunned when Garrett reached for his mic stand, which his vocal effects pad was strapped to, and pulled out a harmonica, which he proceeded to play during the instrumental outro. More surprising was how great it actually sounded, adding a new layer/element to the track.

There was a short pause, during which Garrett started to set up their next song, stopping after he started tripping over his words. “Let me think about this for a minute, ‘cause I’m going to get it wrong.” he said while laughing, then informed everyone that the next song was the title track from their most recent EP. “Let’s fucking do this!” he shouted as Brian began “Kidnapping”. The verses were left mainly to Daniel, but they added some nice alteration to it. For example, Garrett would join him on some lines, like on the second verse, “I went back inside.” before dropping out as Daniel kept on, “To find his parents standing at the end of the hall. I knocked them cold with the butt of my .45…” It just gave a nice effect to it, and was something they weren’t doing the last time I saw them.

“We’re gonna chase some tail with this one.” Garrett told the crowd, before swapping spots with Daniel. He was of course setting up the ultra steamy “Tailchaser”, which often found Daniel gripping the mic stand, getting really into the song as he sang it. “…All the bittersweet things that I do to you…” he sang at one point, then continued repeating, “That I do to you.” in a falsetto tone. I mentioned that about him grabbing the mic stand, well, he evidently unknowingly loosened it, ‘cause he continued singing, it suddenly collapsed. They couldn’t help but laugh, and he quickly pulled it back up and tightened it to ensure that wouldn’t happen again.

At the end of it, Daniel made his way onto the drum riser, facing Brian, and slammed his guitar down in synch with each of the final beats he knocked out.

They were almost done, and next knocked out another new track, which found Erik laying down some incredible parts on the piano, and Anthony even had a short but sweet bass solo on it, before Garrett again brought out the harmonica. I have to say, so far I’m really liking how their new material is shaping up, but so much of their older stuff are still classics, like the song about their old hometown, “Denton, TX”. “If you know this next part than sing along.” Garrett encouraged as he shouted; “Now I’ve gone and done it. So point the finger at me, point your fucking finger at me…” They wrapped the song up in style, and shortly before that line, Erik lifted his keyboard of the stand, holding it at an angle as he continued to play it. Think something like a keytar, except it was is full size keyboard and there was of course no strap.

For one reason or another, The Raven Charter is one of those bands I don’t see just too often, but I’m perpetually blown away by them, and after seeing a show think to myself, “I need to see these guys more often.”

Those harmonies they employ on so many of their songs, and just their music in general is highly original, ensuring they’re not your typical rock band. The raw energy they pack into their show is also better than most, and yes, they’re all excellent musicians. Especially Anthony, who’s just an outstanding and vigorous bass player.

Over on their REVERBNATION PAGE you can snag a couple of free downloads of a couple of their newest songs (“No Direction” and “Freela Deela”), and check out their two EP’s in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be fairly busy over the next few months. January 31st will find them at the Chuggin’ Monk in Arlington. February 22nd they’ll be up in Oklahoma City at Leon’s Lounge, then they have some more Texas dates on the 28th and then March 1st and 29th. The first of those will be at The Grotto in Fort Worth, with a date in Dallas at the Boiler Room the next night. The last March date will take place at Rubber Gloves up in Denton.

That’s plenty of opportunities to see them, and if you do, you’ll be glad you did.

Up next was a band who had a relatively quiet 2013; Redefine.

They just didn’t do many shows last year, and the last time I had seen them was back in April, so the better part of a year.

That meant this show, their first of the new year, was long overdue, and I was eager to hear some of their old hits along with the music from their upcoming EP.

Like the two bands directly before them, Redefine got their show going before the curtain was ever opened, as Daniel “Dano” Taylor opened things up with a drum solo. The crowd was liking it, and their fans liked it even more when lead guitarist Chris Apaliski jumped in, revealing the song to be “Like a Vision, a Ghost”. “When everything just broke down, you yourself broke right down, too…” sang frontman  Scott Headstream, using his megaphone with the Redefine logo plastered on the side, giving the song a nice effect. It’s only used sporadically, though, and he ditched it just a few lines later and grabbed the microphone, “But you never even listen, you never opened yourself that way. And all these things fell apart, dear. Lost on love, found decay…”

I was already enjoying this immensely, seeing as they opened with my favorite track from the “Blur On the Horizon” EP, and they were merely getting started. “Are y’all ready to do this?!” Scott asked the crowd from atop the drum riser, leaping off moments after their new single, “All That Ever Was”, got underway. It’s a little different than their other stuff, mainly because it’s not quite as heavy, but it’s still an exhilarating rock number, complete with a dynamite guitar solo from Chris, and bassist Mike DiQuinzio and Dano create a tight and intricate rhythm sound.

They took a breather before their next song, during which Scott shouted out their friends in The Raven Charter. “…The Raven Charter had our baby.” he remarked, stating it like it was a fact. He chatted up the crowd for a minute before they launched into their next song, a track from “The Power Of Persuasion” EP, and it so happened to be my favorite from that album; “The Darkest Night”. It’s a good ol’ heavy, fast paced rock song with some nice additional elements thrown in. For example, on the bridge, when Scott hit the notes in an even higher voice than I think I’ve ever heard him do, as he sang, “Breathe me in, hold me there in your skin…” “Let’s do this.” he said, as the instrumental jam portion of the bridge came to an end; the quintet kicking it into high gear for the last little bit.

Dano kept the beat from that song, patching it into their next number, while Scott took a moment to congratulate the Curtain Club on its sixteen years of success. “…The Curtain Club’s home base…” he said, not only speaking for Redefine, but countless other North Texas bands who have, be it in the past or currently, been regulars here.

Once his speech was done, Chris, Mike and rhythm guitarist Matt Jones jumped in over the drum beat, giving shape to “Arcana”. For quite awhile after they released “Blur…” in 2011, I was just indifferent to that song. It’s not that I disliked it, but I wasn’t crazy about it, either. However, in the last year or so it’s really grown on me, and it is one of their best live songs.

While performing that one, someone bought a shot for Scott and set it on the stage. “What’s this?” he asked holding it, looking at his friend who had bought it. “Semen?” Scott asked the guy, who had shouted what it was to him. “Oh, bull semen. It’s bull semen.” he said right before drinking some of it, making a face as he did so. “Yeah, that tastes like bull semen.” he said after downing it. He got more serious for just a moment, promoting their merch they had for sale, saying they could really use the money to keep Mike out of jail. “…He is a lawyer now…” Scott clarified. Mike seemed less than amused, though, which probably had something to do with the fact that he was sick and was doing good to even make it through their show.

After all those old hits, it was now time for some more new stuff, beginning with “Whole”. The last time I saw them, I mentioned this song was one of the best I’ve ever heard them do, and I found to be almost better than those other favorites of mine they had done earlier this night. Well, this night it found a permanent place in my heart, and is quite possibly the best song they’ve ever done. It’s intense, yet emotional, particularly more towards the end, when Scott sang in a pleading tone, “Before you get up and leave, consider this moment…” Then came the best part, when the guitars, bass and drum slowly died out, making you believe the song was over. Quite a few people even started clapping, before they ripped back into the song with a vengeance, harder and heavier than it even had been before for this final stretch.

In turn, that served as a great way to set the stage for the next song, “Battle Hymn”, which began with some quick and furious beats from Dano, taking the pace from the end of “Whole” and then building on it. “Bless you, children.” Scott told the raving fans, before the final song of their 33-minute set; “Fall Down, I Believe It”, another song that required the use of that megaphone on a line or two, and, as it usually is, was just a great way to close to the show, leaving everyone in a euphoric state.

In terms of stage show, no, this wasn’t the best Redefine gig. Mike certainly can’t be held accountable for being sick, and deserves props for even powering through and being there, but he certainly wasn’t his usually active and jovial self. They compensated for it pretty well, though. Chris is always entertaining to watch, keeping busy by rushing around the stage and shredding on his axe, and Scott’s a powerful frontman with a voice unlike any you’ve ever heard.

On a related note, Matt’s still fairly new to the band, and with their light show schedule in 2013, they didn’t have many opportunities to work on their live chemistry with one another last year. That said, I thought they were all clicking better this night, in terms of working with and feeding off one another, and they proved that even a Redefine show that’s lackluster by their standards, is still a helluva show, and superior to most other bands.

They have an extremely rare Austin show planned for February 28th at The Parish, so if you live down that way, go check ‘em out. Their next show in the D/FW metroplex is slated for March 29th at Rubber Gloves in Denton (playing alongside The Raven Charter). As of right now, you can still get a free download of “All That Ever Was” on their REVERBNATION PAGE, so check that out, especially if you haven’t heard of these guys. Then, if you like that, go buy their two EP’s in iTUNES.

Oh, and they recently signed with DoForItRecords, who will be releasing their new album sometime this year.

One of the last bands for the night was Daylight Industries, who had added an extra member to the group since I had last seen them.

Ruvayne Weber had joined as the second guitarist in the band, and not only that, but they had also released their second EP, “Faith Healer”, since I last caught one of their shows.

They were raring to go as soon as they got their gear setup, and the curtain opened on a band who was pretty much all smiles.

Bassist Barry Townsend beamed at the packed venue, then turned around and pressed his bass against the amp, creating some feedback. “…This is all we’re gonna do all night. Just fucking feedback…” laughed vocalist Keith Allen, who was enjoying it as much as everyone else was. When they did finally rip into their first track, it was a brutal powerhouse of a song. Everything about it was blistering, and it instantly had you glued to the stage, watching in awe as they darted about and jumped around on stage.

If there was any doubt about this night being a party, Daylight Industries squashed it, and after that song Keith held his beer up, then reached out to toast some of their fans. “Hey, he was trying to take my beer. Did you see that?” he said, pointing out one of his friends and then ribbed him about trying to steal his drink.

Next, they knocked out one of the shortest songs on the “Faith Healer” EP, “Lesson Learned”, intensifying their performance, as Barry bounced back and forth, while lead guitarist Brandon Tyner stood closer to the forefront of the stage, bouncing around while shredding on his guitar.

“How are y’all motherfuckers doing?!” shouted Brandon once the song was over. He was more vocal this night than I’ve heard him be, acting almost like a second frontman in terms of how he interacted with the crowd, which was something I quite liked. “That was good, but we’re gonna need some more.” He told everyone before they started “Aphasia”, a slightly more melodic sounding song. Brandon was having so much and getting so into it, at one point he knocked over the mic on his bass amp, something he and Barry shared a laugh over while he quickly set it back up.

A few songs later, Keith mentioned something about how they weren’t a band that was afraid to resort to humor, and that perfectly displayed during this break, when someone in the crowd made some remark to him. “I’ll pay for the abortion!” he exclaimed in response. “I already have four kids. I’m done with that shit.” Yeah, they’re definitely not afraid to resort to humor of any kind, and Keith had everyone cracking up with that. They brought things back up with “Junkie Logic”, which features some thunderous and tight drumming from the one and only, Stephen Smith. They kept going, full steam ahead, with the invigorating “Wandering”, which honestly, was their best song of the night.

They were just all in the zone while knocking out the furious number, while the fans eagerly banged their heads about to the music, and some very light moshing even got going.

“Hey! Y’all want to hear a Reggae song?!” Brandon asked enthusiastically. “…We were very happy to hear about what happened in Colorado.” Remarked Keith, referring to the legalization of selling marijuana, which was the lead in to “Western Sky”. In terms of sound, it’s very different from anything Daylight Industries has ever done, and does have certain Reggae elements to it, especially with the guitar tones. At its heart, it’s still a rock song, though.

“This is the title track from our new EP!” Brandon informed everyone right before Steve kicked off “Faith Healer”. Barry incited a clap along during the slow part in the tracks final minute, as Keith sang, “Carved it out of you, I felt the pieces in my hands”. With that one done, there was only one song that remained from their EP, and that was “Sit In”. “If I’m a saint, than I’m the patron saint of fools. The prison guards who run this town have made up all the rules…” roared Keith on each chorus. Then, as it drew to a close, Barry began jumping around wildly, all the while still slapping his bass.

Their 34-minute long set was almost over, but they had one more new song to offer to everyone. “…This one’s called White Russians.” It fit the short song structure of all their newer material, clocking in at about two and a half minutes, but aside from that, it was another song that showed off a slightly different style of rock for these guys. It was very heavier in the rhythm sense, more so than their other stuff, but all around, this hard-hitting number is an instant classic.

The only good thing from me not seeing Daylight Industries too much lately is that it makes it easy to see how much they’ve grown; and they’ve grown a lot since last Spring.

I’ll start with the most noticeable, the addition of Ruvayne Weber. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to him this night, as I was standing on the opposite side of the stage and just couldn’t see him that well, but that extra guitar elevates their sound to the next level.

I never would have thought they needed it, ‘cause for just the few years I’ve been a fan they’ve gotten by fine as a four-piece, but man, it really does make a difference.

Moving on, Keith, Brandon and Barry have even stepped up their respective performances (who knew that was possible?), and even though space seemed kind of tight on stage, they all found plenty of room to move about, rock out and just cut loose and have fun.

They all fed off one another and interacted well, and as for Steve, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the guy’s one of the best drummers I’ve seen.

They are one of the best bands to see live, and if they’ve come this far in just about a year, I can’t wait to see what level they push themselves to next.

Over on their REVERBNATION PAGE you can download several free songs. Most are live cuts (including two of the new songs they did this night, from this show), but they also have the entire “Faith Healer” EP available. Of course, if you really like it, go pick it up in iTUNES, where you’ll also find their first EP as well as a live show from an old Curtain Club gig.

As for shows, they’ve got a full schedule coming up. February 8th they’ll be up in Denton at Rubber Gloves. The 15th will find them at Union Station in Denison. They have a couple more Dallas gigs after that; the first on February 22nd at Reno’s, and then they’ll return to the Curtain Club on March 8th. They also have a show booked at The Railhead in Lawton, OK on March 22nd.

There was one final band for the night, Green Mild Bell Peppers, who were a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band. I didn’t stick around for them, mainly because it had already been a fairly long night, and the night after was going to be more or less the same.

Still, this was an incredibly night of music here on the first night of the Curtain Club’s 16th anniversary weekend. Hell, it was almost, ALMOST as good as the triple reunion show featuring The FEDS, Space Cadet and Upside a couple years back.

Friday, November 8th, 2013 – A Celebration of The Circle

There are plenty of badges of honor for local North Texas bands to wear. From playing some of the more recognized venues (i.e. House of Blues), to some of the iconic Deep Ellum haunts who have hosted a plethora of well known bands over the decades, but easily the biggest honor is to get a plaque up on the Wall of Fame at the Curtain Club.

Drowning Pool did it early in their career, as did Bowling for Soup, and many other national acts who hail from the area, as well as a slew of local bands, past and present, who are highly regarded here. And now, this night, it was time for The Circle to join those ranks, having completed the requirements of having to get X amount of fans out to each consecutive show at the venue.

Opening up the night was one band that accomplished the task of getting a plaque, years ago, and that was Pistol Whippin’ Ike, who was debuting their brand new lineup this night.

Jeff Hathcock hammered down on his drum kit, launching them into “Liar”, the rest of the band quickly following suit as they ripped into their instruments. It was a little strange hearing it at the beginning of their set instead of the end, like I’m used to, but it offered one hell of a way to get the show going. It certainly got their fans pumped up, as well as attracted the attention of other onlookers, though it was the outro they added to it that wound up being my favorite part of the song. It was a killer, short instrumental piece, dominated by soaring sounds of Barry Lorberbaums’ and Jason Rutledges’ guitars, and was a nice touch to the track.

That soon gave way to another instrumental segment, setting up “Last Cigarette”. Oddly enough, Barry Townsend, who is the new bands new bass player, was pretty restrained during their first song, seeming like he was perhaps a bit nervous. If he was, he shook it off during that number, getting into the form you’re used to if you’ve seen him with his other band, jumping around and thrashing about on stage, bare footed no less. “…So The Circle is here…” said frontman Mario Cadena, after welcoming everyone to the show. He went on to say, “I’ve known them for twelve years. I was only fifteen back then.”, joking about that last part, before announcing their next song, a favorite of mine, “Pull the Trigger”. “Listen.” he commanded before the first couple of choruses, a signature move of his, and by the next time the chorus came around he asked everyone to sing along with him. The song wasn’t without a little hiccup, though, when at one point, one way or another, Townsend’s bass had gotten unplugged, a problem he quickly fixed.

“Are you having a good time?!” Mario asked as they went immediately into “Life As We Know”, the only classic PWI song of the night, with a message that is timeless. Things slowed down just slightly with “What Have I Become?”, ending with Jeff using one of his hands to point towards the sky as the song gradually trailed off. Afterwards, Mario took time to officially introduce “Number Two”, since Townsend is the second one with that name Barry in the band. “…This is his first show. Actually his first practice…” Mario joked, noting he wasn’t doing too bad. The laughs continued, too, Mario pointing out he was “Mexican”, stating, “…Everyone needs a Mexican friend…” and that he was probably the one for some of the fans.

That led them to another track from the “Dying the Dream: Part 1” album, “I Used to Dream”, and was followed by a song that will most likely be on the follow-up to that album, “Truth”, which made its live debut this night. There’s no doubt it’s a true Pistol Whippin’ Ike song, fitting their heavier rock mold perfectly, and out of all the new songs I’ve heard them do in the last few years, “Truth” is easily one of the best.

Mario made one last speech, again congratulating The Circle for the honor they would soon have bestowed upon them, as well telling the fans how they felt about them. “…Without you, we are nothing.” said Mario, pointing at everyone, as they ended their 41-minute long set with the heaviest song they’ve got, “You Should Run”, which had not only Mario letting out a throaty scream at the end, but also Jason doing some screaming in between the main lyrics.

I honestly think this was one of the best Pistol Whippin’ Ike shows I’ve seen. Is what’s most impressive, is they haven’t even done an all electric show in a little while, yet they got up there and owned the stage. Townsend fit in well with the rock outfit, finding his groove early on and seeming completely comfortable with this new band of his, and only helped push them more, doing a fair amount of interacting with Lorberbaum and Jason. Jeff even seemed to have a different aura about him, killing it on the drums, while Mario commanded the crowd even better than usual.

Probably a lot of that tightness can be attributed to their long career, and they recently celebrated the bands twelfth birthday. They may have had a several year hiatus in between when they broke up, but nevertheless, the chemistry they build in all those years is still there, and so very noticeable on stage, and it looks like Townsend is going to fit in with it perfectly.

You can catch the band again soon, on November 21st when they play the Boiler Room in Dallas, and check out their page in iTUNES, where you can buy their official studio records along with some live cuts.

The night was just starting to get going now, and the onslaught of rock continued when Honey took the stage.

They wasted no time, ripping right into the first song of their 40-minute set, “Whiplash”, as even more people made their way into the already pretty full venue to hear Honey’s raw rock sounds. It was quickly followed by another, during which drummer Vinnie E. Parma started to show off some of his moves, tossing a drum stick into the air at one point, which he failed to catch. You could tell he was a bit upset by it, but he’d redeem himself soon enough.

“I guess I can talk to you all now, it’s been a couple of songs…” said singer and rhythm guitarist Kes O’Hara, her thick Australian accent being readily apparent when she spoke, though was completely unnoticeable when she sang. She mentioned how hot it was on stage, before pulling her hat off. “It’s too hot for a hat, but now I have hat hair.” she said, putting it back on as they readied themselves for the next song. Here was where Vinnie made up for the little fumble from the previous song, at one point throwing a drum stick at just the right angle so that it bounced off one of the cymbals, back towards him before he caught it. It was quite entertaining to watch, and something he repeated a few times at various points throughout the rest of their set. And completing the rhythm section you had Holly Wood, who knocked out a sweet bass solo on that track.

They took another pause in-between songs, as Kes pointed out the exact web address to go to to find their Facebook page. “…If you just search Honey, you’ll get four million results…” she warned everyone, before eventually adding that the next song was more or less her theme song. “…Wasted on the weekend, living day to day…” she belted out in her gruffer voice on the chorus of “Wasted”, a song that was complete with a blistering guitar solo from Krishen Anthony.

Afterwards, they slowed things down ever so slightly as Kes swapped out to an acoustic guitar, then reminisced about her first trip to Texas, saying it only lasted for three weeks, and once she returned to Australia all she did was think about the US. “…So I saved for six months to move back…” she said, noting that, that was what this next song was about. Upon finishing it, they brought things back up, with a cover no less, putting their spin on Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation”, doing it justice as well as leaving a mark on it. Another original, the pretty catchy “Free Ride” followed, after which Kes again thought back on Texas. “I thought Texas would be all propane and Hank Hill’s…” she said, a stereotype that pretty much the whole world has about the state. “…But then I got here and y’all were normal.” she finished, before they went into “Red Carpet”, the end of which Vinnie patched into their final song.

Before this, the only Honey show I had seen was their live debut, which was here at the Curtain back in June, and as solid as they were then, they’ve definitely tightened up since. Along with the stellar musicianship they each possess, you can also see how cohesive they are, each a vital component of the larger working unit.

It’s easy to see why Honey has taken the Dallas music scene by storm, quickly winning over hordes of fans. At one point this night, Kes mentioned The Circle and the plaque they were getting, gazing at the wall while pointing out that she’d like to have a plaque up there on day. It seems almost a sure bet that, that will happen, and that day may well be sooner rather than later.

They’ll be back at the Curtain Club on December 6th, and afterwards, you can catch them December 8th at Three Links and December 19th at Trees, both of which are in Dallas.

While they were the main band of the night, The Circle had opted for the spot before the “headline” slot, since the eleven o’clock hour time has now become the most coveted one to have. Actually, it was after 11:30 when they finally hit the stage, and there was not a soul in there who was expecting what was seen when the curtain opened…

Frontman Don Mills, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls and bassist Kenneth Henrichs were all sporting tuxes and bow ties, while drummer Marc Berry had on a vest, as well as fedora. They were looking their best for this special night, and the audience was only allowed a second or two to actually take all that in before the sample intro for their first song, “The Other Side”, signified the start of what would be a legendary night.

“What the hell is up, Curtain Club?!” Don roared, while Craig and the rest of the group instantly moved along to the next song, “406”. “How are you doing?” he then asked, continuing chatting for a minute or so, eventually dedicating this show to every single person who was here this night. And for the record, they had the Curtain as full as I’ve seen it in a long time. They only made things more intense with “406”, and it was pretty entertaining to see four guys moving about the stage, jumping on their boxes that bore the band’s name and logo, and just flat out rocking out in tuxedos. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before, and I doubt I will again.

Don made another dedication after that song, this time to all the other plaqued bands, whose ranks they were clearly thrilled to be joining. He even had an anecdote to share, saying that the first time he walked into the Curtain Club was in 1997, “…And I saw Chad…” he said, pointing to Chad Lovell, the current sound guy at the venue. Don went on, adding that he saw the plaque for Course of Empire, the iconic Dallas band that Chad was a part of, saying he thought to himself, “I want to be like Chad.” The stories, at least for the time being, ended there, as Don counted them in to one of three newer songs they did this night, “Save Me”. It was a great song, which I found to be ever so slightly different from most of their other tunes, in a good way, and whilst performing it, Don made a point to introduce all of his band mates.

That new one was segued into a fan favorite, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, which served to amp the energy level up even more, and by the time it ended, Marc stood from stool, as he wildly banged on his drum kit. They got another breather when Don introduced a friend, Don Brooks, whom he turned the mic over to. The other Don mentioned how loyal Mills has been to the music scene during his tenure, saying how proud he was of all of them for reaching this milestone accomplishment. Once he returned to the audience, they picked back up with “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”, which proved to be a little too action packed for Don, who had to walk into the stairway once the song was done to adjust his pants. “Play some porn music.” he said to the rest of the group, who instead fired up their next number. “That’s not porn music.” he said upon returning, getting back into show mode for “You Wanted This”, a pretty catchy hard rock song.

But out of all of their new tracks they played this night, it was “Monster” that took the cake in my opinion, segueing almost seamlessly into it from the previous one. It had a super slick and polished sound, and at the end Kenneth let loose some wicked bass riffs by running his finger across one of the strings, all the way up the neck of the guitar. The song wasn’t without its faults, though, due entirely to some technical difficulties that suddenly arose, when the main microphone cut out, making it impossible to hear Don for about an entire verse, if not even a little longer.

“When they measure you for a tux, let it go one size down.” remarked Don, before they cranked out what’s easily their most emotionally filled song, “Failure”. Another track from their debut “Who I Am” EP came next, “I Am”. All five of them where in perfect synch with one another after the second chorus, during a short instrumental breakdown, as Craig, Alan, Kenneth and Don all started banging their heads in time with the beats Marc was churning out.

Only one song was left at that point, and Don put it best by saying it was “…The song that brought us all here.” It was the first single they recorded, and the one that every single one of their fans loves, “Sleep On it”, which ended their 42-minute long set, and nearly finished Don’s voice off, which had started fading just during those last couple of songs.

It wasn’t over quite yet, though, because they still had to get their plaque, and it wasn’t presented in just the typical, standard way.

Darth Vader’s theme song from the Star Wars film began to play, as the Storm Troopers and a few other characters from the movies made their way on stage. If you’ve been in Deep Ellum before, you’ve no doubt seen them walking around some time or another, and after being presented with their plaque, Don said he had also wanted to do something that had not been done before, and that was have an already plaqued band present them with theirs. That was the cue for one of the Storm Troopers, who was a member of the band Rivethead, to remove his helmet and say a few words. It was Robert Miguel who first brought their plaque on stage, though, handing it to the members of The Circle, leading to a lengthy photo session, where they held it for several minutes, allowing everyone to snap a picture or two with their phones. They weren’t quite done yet after all that, though…

Back in July when they did their CD release show here, The Circle pulled out a classic from one of the best metal bands to come out of Dallas, and they were doing it again, now, covering Drowning Pool’s, “Tear Away”. It feature an all-star collection of musicians, too, with JC of the Tyler based outfit The Truman Syndrome joining them onstage, and doing most of the lead singing. Don also asked Ryan Ray of Adakain to join them, while Xtina and a few other members of Solice, and even Jules from Enamored and Paris Pipkin of Last Day Living got on stage, giving a real sense of community and family to the song.

At one point during their show, Don noted that with this show, they had wanted to set the standard for all other plaque shows to come, and while I have my doubts that, that standard will actually be met by other bands, they did achieve their goal.

A plaque on that wall is something every Dallas and even North Texas musician dreams of, and it’s something only a select few will actually obtain. That said, many of the other bands whose plaque shows I have seen, the importance of the event has seemed a bit lost on them, giving off more of a, “Hey, that’s cool” vibe. Whereas The Circle fully recognized it as the privilege it is, going all out, not just in their attire, but in their performance, making it the best show of theirs that I’ve seen.

In the end, it was a fitting final show of the year for them, closing out what has been a busy year for them, and saw them hit two huge milestones (release of their debut EP and this plaque), leaving you to wonder what 2014 will hold for them. Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping it’s an even better year than this one was.

First up, I want to say one last “congratulations” to The Circle, and if you don’t yet have their “Who I Am” EP, check it out in iTUNES.

To some, the party may have been over with that, as the masses cleared out, most of whom probably had no idea what they would be missing out on by skipping Alterflesh.

The band hit the stage late, nearly one in the morning, seeming unaffected by the late slot, still doing a whopping 54-minute long set.

Frontman Dayvoh, who was acting as the rhythm guitarist for these first few songs, greeted everyone with his normal statement, making you expect something different right from the get go. “…How strange we are even here.” he remarked to his “brothers and sisters”, after mentioning the vastness of the universe, as that led them into “Megahub”. The song was only enhanced by Dayvoh’s unique look, one he didn’t (entirely) have the last time I saw them. He was without a shirt this night, his torso up to his bald head covered in small blue hexagons, giving him an otherworldly look, pulling off with ease what he’s going for, and that is evoking the image of a shaman. “We’re gonna bring you another story…” Dayvoh announced as soon as they finished that song, bassist Paul Kubajak laying down the heavy and sweet bass licks that begin “So Much More”. “…Maybe you had too much too fast…” Dayvoh sang at one point in the song, which is just one example of the depth Alterflesh’s songs have, even being thought provoking at times.

“…The force is with us…” Dayvoh stated as a few of the Storm Troopers walked on the stage, dancing around while drummer Kevin Mills, lead guitarist Ben Schelin and the rest threw down on “Toxic”. Dayvoh took a break from his guitar after that, as they were joined by a guest, Don Mills. Even after his band’s set, he still had enough energy for one more, and he and Dayvoh co-sang a track titled “Believe In”, making it a highlight song of their set. Afterwards, the two singers had some fun, coming across as the perfect comedic duo, cracking a few jokes at times. The biggest laugh came after Don again said they had wanted to set the standard for all future plaque shows, while Dayvoh reached into the drawer of the desk that was on stage (they decorate the stage with al sorts of things, from statues of Buddha to paintings, etc.) He pulled out a wad of one dollar bills, making it rain as he tossed them out at the fans, who frantically picked up all they could.

Don then exited the stage, while Dayvoh set up their next song. “…This is a social rant.” he said, adding, “Keep up with the lyrics.” speaking of “Watch Rome Burn”. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and if you can keep up with the words that he so quickly spits out, you may take something away from it. For example on the bridge when Dayvoh sings, “…Just because they will say it is wrong does not mean you should leave it alone…” Is what’s really remarkable, is how the song still applies to the current culture, given its age, as after the song Dayvoh noted he had first performed that at another Deep Ellum club back in ’96, as a spoken word artist.

He put his axe to use one more time for “Embers”, sitting it back down once the song was over. “For an alternative band, this is as close as we get to country.” For the record, “Imaginary Chains” is far from country, but it’s slow enough at the start that the notes Ben plays maybe, possible could sound similar to something country. Either way, it got a nice laugh from the crowd.

“Here’s something everyone can relate to.” Dayvoh remarked, before they started “Start Over”, which had a pleasant little surprise. Evidently, they weren’t done with their guest singers, and shortly into the song a female voice could be heard, as Xtina of Solice, who already had a microphone in hand, made her way from the audience up to the stage, adding a beautiful layer to the song. Upon finishing it, they stepped tings back up with one of their newer songs, and one that is quickly becoming my favorite Alterflesh track. There’s just something about “Into the Sun”. It’s heavier than the rest of their material, and lyrically speaking, it comes across as being their most transcendental song in my opinion.

They had taken their show nearly as late as they could, the night nearing the clubs 2 A.M. closing time when they started the final song of their 54-minute long set, “New Horizon”. While Kevin and Ben gradually built up the song, Dayvoh outstretched his arms, then slowly moved them towards his chest, placing his palms against one another, appearing to pray.

That song capped off their show well, and the same thing could be said about Alterflesh as far as closing out this night, the messages their music carries with it offering the audience a certain existential feeling.

Along with all that, they put on just as serious a rock show as any of the bands that played before them, filling it with energy, and leaving it all on the stage.

Their next show is scheduled to be on December 6th at the Boiler Room in Dallas, and it’ll be well worth seeing.

In the end, this was quite the night. Probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen here at the Curtain, and that’s saying something. From the lineup, to the performances, everything was outstanding. That said, Don and Dayvoh deserve one last kudos for putting together, having been working on this night since July. In the end, their time and effort was more than noticeable.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - Blameshift

Wednesday night is a real odd night for a concert, but touring acts don’t have the luxury of only playing the prime spots, like the Friday’s and the Saturday’s. Such was the case this night, when not one, but two touring acts from the East Coast (Blameshift and Super Bob) were stopping in Dallas, in part thanks to Torch Entertainment, who had put the show together at Wit’s End.

This was actual the first show I would catch at Wit’s End, having visited the spot when occupied by the former venue, but not since it had been re-opened. It had a different look inside, aesthetically speaking, so it didn’t feel like you were walking into the same old place it had been previously. The biggest difference, though, was the sound, which was always spotty the few shows I had seen there when it was The Bone. I dug it all, and props to the new owners for putting in the work the place so desperately needed, ‘cause it has definitely paid off.

Two D/FW acts were opening, and first up was The Circle, who had hopped on the bill rather last minute, at the request of Blameshift (the two had shared the stage last October), which should speak volumes about The Circle.

This was the first time I’d seen the band since their CD release show back in July, meaning this was the first time that I fully knew some of their newer songs, like the lead track from their EP, “The Other Side”. It’s a killer song that makes for a killer opener, and they didn’t allow for any downtime as drummer Marc Berry patched them into their next song, before lead guitarist Craig Nelson ripped into his guitar for the opening line of “406”. “Can you bring me back to life, ‘cause I’ve been dead for so long…” front man Don Mills belted out on the chorus, singing it rather forcefully, yet also in almost a melodic tone, making for a great combination.

They kept the ball rolling with a fairly new song, one that had only been done at four other shows according to Don. It was called “Save Me”, and it was the first brand new song I’ve heard them do in a little while. It still sounded very much like The Circle, but you could tell it was a newer one, written now that they’ve spent quite a bit of time together as a band, and just more cohesive. I guess I mean to say the cohesiveness was more than noticeable, and to a different degree then even their more recent tracks.

Upon finishing it, Don proposed a toast to everyone, thanking those who were there for coming out, as well as the other bands on the bill. “…It takes some big balls to play in Deep Ellum on a Wednesday night.” he stated. They then got back into some heavier stuff with “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”, before going right into their next song, and I believe that transition was handled by rhythm guitarist Alan Sauls, who fired up “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”. Right before hitting the last chorus of that one, Don, Craig and bassist Kenneth Henrichs (who had been adding some great backing vocals to it by the way) leapt straight into the air, in near perfect synch with one another.

They then cranked out another new one… Sort of. Upon finishing it Don (assumingly) joked that they had just rewritten it the day before. Personally, I don’t recall having heard “You Wanted This” before, or perhaps before it was overshadowed by some of their other songs. Whatever the case, it’s one you’ll certainly remember from now on when you hear it. While on the subject of songs that will stick with you, one of their album cuts, “Failure”, also has that effect, and Don pointed out that it was one of his favorites from the “Who I Am” EP.

“…I ate Serious Pizza before we started…” stated Don, remarking that, that was a “bad mistake”. Perhaps that impacted how he felt, but not how he acted, nor his stage presence, as they opted to work on closing out their EP as their 36-minute long set neared its end. That meant knocking out “I Am”, a song that is continuing to grow on me each time I hear it, before quickly launching into their single, “Sleep On it”, which is still the best way for them to wrap up a show, even leaving you wanting more.

It didn’t matter that they only had a handful of people giving them their undivided attention, they still rocked the place to the best of their ability, and on that note, you don’t often see a band that’s a fairly routine headliner opening up a show, and when one does, you know it’s going to be an excellent night.

They were incredible as always, and each time I see them, I somehow manage to end up liking them even more than I already did.

If you’re a fan of real rock music, head over to iTUNES and give a listen to their “Who I Am” EP. In regards to shows, they’ll be playing in Allen at the Dirty Rooster on October 19th. October 27th they’ll be at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, opening up for Nonpoint, and then on November 8th they’ll have a pretty big show at the Curtain Club in Dallas, and it’ll be one you don’t want to miss.

Second up on this bill was Waking Alice, another band that is more than capable of serving as a headlining act as well.

In what is becoming standard fashion, they opened their 36-minute long set with one of their newer (or at least unrecorded) songs, and one that I truly love. It’s the perfect flow the song has, the music bed complimenting frontman Rus Chaney’s voice, and vice versa, as they intertwine so well with one another.

Afterwards, they set to work tackling the “Retribution” EP. “This song’s called Treason.” Rus announced, guitarist Brandon Brewer starting the song no sooner had he spoke those words. That hefty and fast paced tune was followed by the darker, even slightly melodic “Scars”, which also boasts some spot on and impressive drumming from Jonn Levey

In a similar fashion as the band before them, Rus now offered up a toast to the fans and bands alike, thanking those who had come out to support, and after voicing his appreciation, a [female] fan shouted, “Take your shirt off!” He ignored the request, but Brandon had a response. “I was going to, but now I won’t.” he quipped, before Rus set up their one slower love song. “Fates Design” is one of my favorite Waking Alice tracks, and it was only made better this night by a slightly tweaked intro, different than that you hear on the recording, which made the song a little more impactful. Afterwards, they pulled out their newest song, which Rus noted had been released on iTUNES just a week or two before, repeatedly saying its name, “Hostage”. “So, yeah, this one’s Hostage.” he said (or something along those lines) after briefly talking about the song.

The tight combination of the guitar, drums and bass, played by Brayton Bourque, made for the best intro of any of their songs, while the track itself was their best of the night. I’d even say it’s the best thing the band has written with its current lineup, and it’s a perfect display of what rock music should be.

No WA show would be complete without the classic, “Biggest Lie”, and of course Brandon went into a guitar solo a little after the halfway mark. It started out sounding pretty close to how the song does, though that didn’t last long, as he pulled away from it, riffing and shredding. He wasn’t the only one with a solo, though, and in a change of pace, Brayton also riffed for a few seconds, before Jonn took charge with a short drum solo, allowing everyone to have their moment, before Rus started back in, “Cut it out of me…”

Their time had passed by quick, but they had one last song to do, a cover Rus informed everyone, getting a few cheers from group of fans who knew what was coming next. At least they thought they did. “We’re gonna do a little Pumpkins for ya.” said Rus, which would be a big difference from the other song they’ve covered at recent shows.

Jonn led them into it with a snare roll, before the rest of the group joined in, revealing it to be “Geek U.S.A”, which they did a great rendition of, and it was a good way to cap things off.

I’d say this was one of the best Waking Alice shows I’ve seen yet, delivering a great performance and set this Wednesday night, that hit their best stuff, and that cover they threw in was simply icing on the cake.

They’re not one of those bands that does shows every week, or even every month (in fact, this was their first show since the end of June), but each time they get on stage, the growth is noticeable, as they get a little tighter each time around, which is exactly what you want to see from a band.

You can catch them at least one last time before the year ends, and that one will be at the Curtain Club in Dallas on November 16th. In the meantime, go pick up that new single, “Hostage”, in iTUNES, plus their other assortment of music.

Super Bob was up next, who had traveled all the way from Washington D.C., and were doing their first ever Dallas show.

I had listened to them earlier in that day actually, and didn’t much care for their rap-rock style of music (at least that’s what I consider it to be), and wasn’t expecting much from them. In fact, at first I thought they were going to be the headline act, in which case I planned to leave before they even started.

Then the four-piece outfit got on stage, and proceeded to, at least in terms of stage show, blow everyone else out of the water.

They didn’t let the smaller, even somewhat awkward stage at Wit’s End impede them, as they got down with an explosive and brutal live show, that often had vocalist Matt Santoro, guitarist Adam Smith and bassist Drew Recny thrashing about.

Mixed in with their originals was a cover, a cover of what Matt said was “the greatest rock song ever”, and while that could be argued (specifically the rock part), they did do a fun and intense rendition of LMFAOs’ “Sexy and I Know It.”

While they were all electric performers, I thought it was drummer Chris Faircloth who truly owned the show, adding all sorts of moves into his playing. From the standard tossing the drumsticks up in the air and catching them, to something I had never seen before, which was throwing them in the air, then catching the stick perfectly in the palm of his hand, while it balanced there for a second or two. It was extremely impressive, and mind-blowing would be the best word to use to describe his drumming abilities.

Okay, I was still never won over as a fan of their music, but they do deserve props for the amazing show they put on, and for doing everything they could to get the audience into it, even getting some people to jump at different points in their set.

They’ll be on the road for a little bit longer, working their way back up the East Coast, and you can find all those dates HERE. And for those who do like rap-rock, check out their music in iTUNES.

The Long Island, New York based Blameshift was the headliner this night, and having only caught them once before (June of the previous year), I was looking forward to seeing them again.

With their newest record and first ever full-length album, “Secrets”, due out soon, new material was a guarantee, and they kicked their set off with the album’s lead track, “The Enemy You Need”. It was immediately different from some of their older stuff, which has had a bit of a pop flare to it, but not this track, nor most of the others. It was full-blown Rock ‘n’ Roll all the way, and in a very engaging way at that, and they further pulled the onlookers in by rolling it right into their next song.

Vocalist Jenny Mann started to clap, requesting everyone else join her, and it was impossible not to. “This song’s called Revolution!” she said as they got it going. That first song was all it took for them to get warmed up, and during that one guitarist Tim Barbour and their bass player could be seen racing around the stage, trading back and forth between stage left and right and jumping on top of their boxes, one of which read “Blame”, the other, “Shift”.

After that track, which had some superb percussion parts courtesy of Nathan Saake, Jenny asked everyone to take a few steps closer, saying that the empty space in front of the stage just didn’t feel right, and everyone obliged. “This one’s called Ghost.” She said as they pulled out a track from 2011’s “The Black Rose” EP.

If they only did one old song this night, that one was definitely the best choice, and still meshes well with what they’re doing now, and once it was over, they got back to their new material with “Not Enough”. “…Rock ‘n’ Roll is on a decline…” Jenny said after they finished that song, which is all too sad a fact, and she thanked everyone for coming out in the middle of the week to see them and the other acts, and help keep rock music alive. She continued by noting that while they had played the area before, this was their first time in “The Deep Ellum”, saying she didn’t even know Dallas could be divided into different sections like that. “…Am I saying that right? The Deep Ellum?” she asked, before The Circle’s singer, Don, corrected her, telling her she didn’t need the “The”. “You’d think I would have researched it a little before I got up here…” she joked, adding she wanted to hear the story and why it is a significant part of town after their show.

During all that, Tim was swapping out to an acoustic guitar, while Nathan left the stage. “…We don’t do this often…” Jenny said, after mentioning this was going to be a cover song and referring to the fact that they apparently don’t always do covers. They put their acoustic spin on the Foo Fighters classic “My Hero”. It was a nice way to break things up, and after finishing it they got back to their all electric mode, while Jenny asked everyone to call their radio station and request this next song. “…Tell them to stop playing Nickelback and start playing some new shit.” she said as they got “Let Go” going.

They were at the tail end of their set, doing the title track itself, “Secrets”, which became a bit of a sing along as Jenny led everyone in what to sing on one part, while at another Tim said he wanted to see everyone jumping up and down, something everyone seemed eager to do. They then brought it into the final song of their 37-minute long show, which I think was “I Swear, I’m Gonna Leave This Town”.

Their time went by too quickly, but with a show as fun and enthralling as the one Blameshift puts on, it’s easy to get caught up in it and lose track of time.

It was a fantastic show they did, filled with energy and passion, and they were much better than even what I remembered them being. No doubt a product of the near non-stop touring they do.

As for their new stuff, it’s without question their best music to date, even sounding a little more mature than their previous EPs. And live, it translates exceedingly well.

I don’t believe “Secrets” will be officially released until early November, but if you go see a Blameshift show, you’ll be able to get a copy there (the record is incredible, by the way). Otherwise, wait it out and check out their EPs in iTUNES. They also have a few dates left on this current tour, including October 9th at the Drunk Horse Pub in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The 11th at the Wizard Saloon in Hickory, North Carolina. The 12th at the Chili Cook Off at the Shenandoah Fair Grounds in Woodstock, Virginia. Then on the 17th they’ll be in Toledo, Ohio at Mainstreet.

Props to Torch Entertainment for setting up the show and once again bringing Blameshift through town, as well as getting some killer local bands on the bill. The turnout might have been weak, but those who were able to make it out this Wednesday night saw a show they surely won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Friday, July 12th, 2013 – Who I Am

Apparently, this is the time of year (at least for 2013) to be releasing new albums, because this was the fourth straight Friday I went to a bands CD release show, and this night it was The Circle’s turn to release an album. Not just any album, though, their debut EP, and this long awaited event was taking place at their Dallas home, the Curtain Club.

Days before the show Hazeland had to drop off, though a replacement band was found, and things got pushed back a bit, since that new band took the opening slot. I never caught their name and missed the majority of their set, though they did sound all right based on what little I heard.

That last minute opening act benefited the next band, the Tyler based The Truman Syndrome, who got bumped up to the second slot instead of being the opener. I was quite excited about this, because it had already been five and a half months since the first (and only) time I had seen the group, and out of the numerous times they’ve played D/FW since, I just hadn’t been able to make it to their show. Lucky for me, that was finally about to change.

During their 34-minute set they ran through the bulk of their self-titled debut EP, doing most of the songs in subsequent order. As the curtain opened on them, bassist Jim Taylor held his bass in the air, playing it by using the classic windmill motion, while he and guitarist James Barrera got some feedback going to set up “Never”. They didn’t seem to need any time to warm up, being in show mode almost instantly as those two tore it up on their instruments, while JC Childress ran back and forth across the stage, often jumping up on the monitors while belting out the lyrics.

“This next song’s called You Will Find…” he informed the audience, as Tim Mitchell wound them right into that song. Things only continued to escalate with that one, growing more lively, and on the bridge James jumped down on to some of the steps in front of the stage. That allowed the crowd a better glimpse of his fast paced picking, before he returned to the stage on the chorus, “One day you’ll find, that in time, they will let you down…”

Upon finishing that song, JC took time to state who they were and where they hailed from, adding they felt like they were “…the bastard sons of Dallas…” Indeed they are, what with all the gigs they play here in the metroplex, and I doubt anyone would argue that the Dallas and Fort Worth area is now the bands home away from home. They then launched into a newer song they’ve cooked up, “By the Wayside”, which was quite killer, and at the very least is on par with every track from their EP and left me interested to see what else they’ll write in the future. They returned to their material from the album with a single, but first JC noted they had filmed a video for it, and if I’m remembering right he said shot it in one of the remaining buildings from the OKC bombing, coincidently doing it just a few weeks before the Boston bombing. The onslaught of hard rock music than continued with “Overcome”, which is easily one of their most standout tracks, and had a majority of their fans singing right along.

The brief explanations of the songs continued with JC mentioning Hollywood and how a lot of people move out there hoping for fame and fortune, only to lose it all. He went on to say that there are also a lot of good people out there, too, basically people who don’t only care about themselves, using all that as the segue into my personal favorite song of theirs, “Hollywood Divine”, which boasts a thunderous rhythm section and some soaring guitar riffs. Afterwards, talk turned to religion when JC said something about us (people of Texas) living in the Bible Belt, quickly pointing out he meant nothing by that and didn’t care what anyone believed in personally. Their hometown is definitely part of that Bible Belt, more so than most, and he said the people of Tyler had only recently voted and passed a bill to make the town wet, and he sounded rather impressed when saying you could now get booze in places like convenience stores. “We’re all gonna burn in a lake of fire. We’re all gonna burn by our own desires…” he sang on the first line of “Lake Of Fire”, a song that definitely has some slight religious undertones to it, as it should since beforehand he said they wrote it about people in their hometown (and presumably other smaller towns across the country).

“…Well, I hear the story in you, and you have been abused…” goes one of the later lines, and while singing it JC beat his fist against his head on “abused”, and shortly after James fell backwards (intentionally, I think), laying on the floor for a few seconds while still cranking out the guitar notes. That was their final original song of the night, and Jim took over the spotlight for a bit during his bass solo at the start of their final song, jumping about and moving his legs every which direction while he slapped his bass. I had completely forgotten that they covered the Tool classic, “Sober”. Tim soon entered in as they began to flesh it out more before it roared to life. They do a fantastic rendition of it, and even JC has a voice that is pretty fitting of the song, allowing them to pull it off pretty much to the tee. When they hit “trust me…”, Jim let go of his bass and sent it spinning around his body, making several rotations before he grabbed it and got back to business, which all in all made for a memorable moment and one hell of a way to end their show.

These guys know how to put on a show and command the audience, and they did just that this night. All four of them are extremely energetic performers who certainly pull their own weight, making it hard sometimes to decide who need to be focusing on. And that’s a good thing. On top of that, they write some killer music, and if you like heavier rock to hard rock than you must check out The Truman Syndrome.

They’ll be up in Denton on July 19th at Andy’s Bar, while on July 20th they’ll be playing their hometown of Tyler at Click’s. They’ll be back at The Curtain Club on the 27th, and then on August 3rd you can catch them at Venue717 in Longview, while Click’s will again host them on August 17th. Also, check out their debut EP in iTUNES.

That was an incredible way to get the night started, and on a more typical night, you could probably say they would have been near impossible to compete with, let alone top. But this wasn’t just another typical night, and next up was Red Angel Theory.

They began with one of their newer tracks, “Psycho”, and with its raw rock sound it makes for a fitting opener, as they took charge of the crowd with it. “This next song is called It Often Lies” said front women Monica Koohi, and right after Nick Sarabia beat down on his drum kit while Brandon Deaton proceeded to shred on his guitar. They weren’t about to let up after that, and they immediately tore into one of the songs from their EP, “Shattered”. It’s a very different version than what you’ll find on the EP, though, since much of the lyrics have been rewritten, and the changes seem to be better suited for Monicas’ voice, letting her leave her own mark on the song, verses singing it the way it was originally written with their original front man. Perhaps the best part of it, though was the brutal and primal scream she let out before the final chorus, showing off a whole other side to her vocal abilities.

Brandon, Nick and bassist Phil Sahs never quit playing, and with a few rocking notes and chord changes moved them seamlessly into another new number, “Quarantine”. I had loved the flow their show had, had thus far anyway, but that was a killer segue into what was an awesome song and only made me like the new direction the band is headed in even more. The music finally ceased after that, but not for long, and soon Nick started the sample track intro for one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Inception”. It just has a nice flow to it as far as ebb and flow goes.

No sooner had they finished it then another sample track started, and while it played out it allowed Phil and Brandon to switch out to a different guitar and bass and do some tuning. “It’s about to get a little dirty.” said Monica when they were just about ready, as they launched into another badass newer track, “Suffocate”. That put them at the tail end of 35-minute long set, and now Monica made a little speech about there being “… a lot of negativity in the world…”, and how one of Red Angel Theory’s goals is to help you stay positive and not let things bring you down. “…That’s what this next song is about.” she finished as they started “The Darkness”, which is a bit of an uplifting/inspiring song, despite the heavy sound. No sooner had it come to an end, then the quartet tore into their final song, “When the Dust Settles”, bringing things to an impressive finish.

Over the past few months, Red Angel Theory has really stepped up their show schedule, even doing a slight bit of touring, and you can tell all of that is really starting to payoff for them. They’ve become incredible tight and in synch with one another and I love the methodical approach they take to their set, often bridging the songs together, to give it an epic flow.

It’s only been about six months since they played this stage and Monica made her Dallas debut with the band, and really, that’s not all that long ago, so it is kind of remarkable that they’ve found their groove with one another so quickly. They’re clearly not stopping there, though, and are continuing to push themselves to the next level.

Their next gig (and last one on the books at the moment) is going to be Saturday, July 20th at The Hanger in Greenville, so check that out. Also, listen to and buy their “Rise for Something” EP in iTUNES.

Next up was the main course of the night, and that was The Circle, who no doubt had the biggest crowd this night.

A minute or two before the curtain opened, vocalist Don Mills suddenly addressed the crowd, encouraging everyone to pack in tightly around the stage, saying they would soon be taking a picture of the audience and wanted everyone to be a part of it. He then stopped, as their intro began to play.

When the curtain finally opened, it was only the instrumentalists on stage, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and drummer Marc Berry, who fired up their first song, which I believe was the lead track from their “Who I Am” EP, “The Other Side”. Don then rushed on stage, grabbing the microphone, and they were off. They, too, decided to throw one song after another at the fans, though on a smaller scale than the previous act, and as the song came to an end Craig immediately started “406” with some rip roaring guitar action. It was slightly different from how I remembered it in the past, and that was due largely to Don, who sang it differently. I certainly don’t mean that as an insult, though. In fact, it made me like the song even more (an it’s already one of my favorites of theirs), and the different tone he used on it gave it a lot more depth in my opinion. Oh, and the occasional backing vocals Kenneth threw in only intensified it.

Upon finishing it, Don made a toast to all the bands playing this night, using his signature line, “…Local music is by far the best music that has never been heard…”, a statement I certainly agree with. “Can I get an amen?” he then roared as the crowd cheered and applauded. They didn’t have much time to spare, though, and soon they moved on to “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”, another song Don sang in a slightly different manner, and again it made me like it even more. “Skeptical” was another great song from their set, and definitely one of the heaviest, and when it was done they tapped another cut from the EP, “Failure”. It’s one of their deeper songs, emotionally speaking, and after wrapping it up, the man responsible for it (at least the recording of it) Alex Gerst, who owns Empire Sound Studio and produced The Circle’s EP, got pointed out by Don.

He praised the man, who is arguably the best producer in the area, and eventually was interrupted by his band mates who started “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, causing Don to quickly whip back into performance mode, getting into the strong rhythm section the track has. It was followed by what I assume was one of their newer songs, since it was one I wasn’t familiar with, but they soon got back to the stuff from their EP, doing what is essentially the title track, “I Am”. “Why do you try to walk away? Why do you try to bring me down? Why can’t you just understand this is who I am…”  Don smoothly sang on the chorus of that heavy hitter, mixing in a slight growl from time to time, which only makes the song pack more of a punch. While the final notes rang out, Marc suddenly got their next song going, and if the beats weren’t enough of a giveaway, then it was certainly clear what the song was once Kenneth, Alan and Craig layered their bass and guitars over it. That song was their single, “Sleep On it”, which meant they were at the end of this show, but before embarking on that final number, Don first got the crowd to participate some, by having them clap along to the beat. Towards the end, Don held the microphone down towards the audience, allowing Kenneths’ nephew to sing (or rather, scream) a few lines before taking back over, as the band brought their 36-minute long set to an epic close.

Usually, that’s that, as they always end on their lead single, but I found myself wishing they could do at least one more song, and evidently so did everyone else, because the chants for an encore soon started. It seemed possible, not only because it was their big night, but also because four-fifths of the band were still on stage, and didn’t look like they were about to unplug their instruments and call it a night. So, the fact that they did end up doing an encore wasn’t too surprising, though the song choice was.

They had a few more originals they could have done, but instead, they had worked up a cover to make this show even more memorable, and it was by Dallas natives Drowning Pool. The song came from the iconic “Sinner” album, but wasn’t the one most people would think of, instead they busted out a rendition of “Tear Away”. It was a perfect for the group, though it wasn’t just the killer cover of it they did that made it stand out, but the ensemble cast they had (unexpectedly) join them to help out. JC from The Truman Syndrome joined them on stage and sang a portion of the song as Don ceded control to him. Eric Hawkens, front man of Awake in Theory, was even in attendance, and while reluctant at first, he was eventually coaxed up on stage to help on singing a few of the lines, while Don and Xtina Lee from Solice finished up the song.

This was definitely one of the best Circle shows I’ve seen thus far, and as is the case with all CD release shows from any band, there was a certain level of excitement in the air, from the fans and band alike, and that was an energy they fed off of, using it to propel their show. And the fact that they paid tribute to what is one of the most well known metal bands from Dallas, well, I still find that cool, and it was a nice treat, because I got the impression they had readied that song specifically for this one show.

This EP of theirs, “Who I Am”, you can already purchase it on iTUNES, and at around four bucks, it’s a steal. They also have a couple of gigs lined up this weekend, the first of which will be in Austin at Spinner’s on July 19th, while on the 20th they’ll be in Waco at Fast Eddies.

There was one final act up this night, and that was Phavian, who had come all the way from Los Angeles, and this Dallas show was one of the early gigs on their over three month long tour.

Earlier this year they released their latest EP, “Meridian II”, and were now embarking on a nationwide tour in support of it, and fittingly so, most of their material this night drew from that release.

Not their opening song, though, which came from “Meridian I”. That song was “Feldgrau”, and got their 39-minute long set off to a good start, and I found it to be a nice introduction to their music. By the way, their music was a mix of progressive rock and metal, played quite well by guitarists Puyan Hassani and Rob Cubillos, while Patrick Hassani and Jason Lobell solidified the rhythm section on the drums and bass, respectively. The you had the vocals, which weren’t quite what one would expect to accompany that genre of music, and I mean that in a good way. I felt front woman Elizabeth Matson had more of a classical sound to her singing, which complimented the music quite well. The final minute and a half or so of that song was all instrumental, during which time Elizabeth really got into the music, alluringly dancing about the stage.

The journey through their concept albums continued with the softer “Adam’s Ale”, the lead track from “Meridian II”, and without the roaring guitars or deafening drums to compete with, Elizabeths’ voice was truly able to shine, revealing what a truly impressive voice and range she is capable of. Afterwards, she got behind the keyboard that sit on stage left as they cranked out the subsequent song on the record, “Purl”. They ventured into more of their jam band side with that track, as that eight minute long song is largely instrumental, covering the spectrum from sounding nearly acoustic at times, to some hefty parts you could bang your head to.

However, it paled in comparison to their most epic song of the night, “Watersong”, which on the album clocks in at almost twelve minutes. They hit a snag a few minutes in, though, when the music suddenly ceased and Patrick began desperately asking if he could borrow one of the other band’s snare drums. “…I broke mine…” he said. It took a few minutes, but The Truman Syndrome eventually came to the rescue, giving them their snare. “Now to pick up where we left off.” Elizabeth said as they jumped right back into the song, which I felt wound up being the best song of their set, despite that little hiccup.

As things drew to a close, Elizabeth thanked the other bands, saying it was nice to be a part of what was such a special night for The Circle, and also shouted out her “sister” in Red Angel Theory, saying it’s always great to see women rocking out. She then pointed out that Monica wasn’t her actual sister, just in music. That then led them to their final offering of the night, which was a track from their upcoming “Inversion” EP, “Green Iris”. It served as a book end of shorts for their show, ‘cause much like the opener, this song was pretty metal, more so than some of their stuff, making it seem like things had come full circle. And while not singing, Elizabeth could again be seen succumbing to the music as she danced and swayed about, conducting her body in excellent synch with the song.

Earlier in the week, I had checked out some of Phavian’s stuff online and liked it, but I was pretty impressed with how their songs translated live. There’s multiple layers to each and every song, all of which are very intricate and you actually get to see that at a live performance, which is why I enjoyed their music even more live. That and because of the rocking live show they put on. Puyan, Rob and Jason put on a high energy show, often thrashing about while shredding on their instruments, while Patrick was killing it on the drums, and there’s no do doubt that Elizabeth was able to hold her own with them performance-wise.

Their tour will continue through October 5th, and for a list of all the dates they have, go HERE and see if they’ll be coming to a town near you. I’d also recommend downloading their “Forward” EP, which features one track from each of their four concept records, each of which tell a piece of a much larger story. If you enjoy those samples from that FREE release, buy their music in iTUNES, and in the near future they should be releasing the final two EP’s that are part of that story arc.

They’re a very interesting band, highly original and very creative, and one I’ll definitely be seeing again whenever they return to Dallas.

As usual, this was another excellent night of music hosted by the Curtain Club, and another big congrats to the guys of The Circle on the release of their debut record.

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 – The Advent Reunion Show

This made for my third straight week going to the Curtain Club in Dallas, and it was no doubt going to be a great show this night.

To set it up, there once was a band by the name of Advent. I heard of them shortly after I was introduced to the local music scene. They were pretty big as far as local acts go, and while I did buy their album, I never made it out to a show before they called it quits.

Well, tonight Advent was returning to the stage and their Deep Ellum home for a one-time only reunion show. Making it even better was the fact that several great bands had been tapped to open for them, beginning with one I had not heard of before this,the Denton based, Idler.

They busted into the first song of their 30-minute long set, “Vendetta”, which immediately utilized the bands most unique feature; their two vocalists. Both Micah and Katie sang the majority of the song, often harmonizing with each other, adding a beautiful texture to what was an explosive rock song. They switched that dynamic up a bit with their next song, “Go for Broke”, which was more co-sung. Micah stood at the front of the stage while he sang the verses, then would switch spots with Katie, who had been hanging back by the drum riser, as she approached the crowd to sing the chorus, “Go for broke and see there’s nothing left to do…” The followed it with “Let Me In”, and then another newer song, which I believe was the one that Katie left the stage for. She could certainly hold her own up there, but I thought it cool that one song painted them in a more “typical” rock band spotlight, and guitarists, Jeff and Mykey, bassist, Nick, drummer, Eric and Micah really threw down during it. “Lose Control” was a real standout from their set, and was another duet of sorts, only it found Katie taking over lead vocal duties. “This next song’s called Pitchfork.” Micah said, leading them into the tune, before doing one last non-album track, titled “Cigarette”. They weren’t quite done, though, and had one surprise/trick up their sleeves. It’s no big surprise when bands do cover songs, however, there are some songs you never expect to hear a band cover. Idler was doing one of those songs, and it was the iconic Kenny Logins track, “Danger Zone”. Nick, Mykey, Jeff and Eric added a lot of grit to it, making it much heavier than the original version from the 80’s, catapulting it to more of a hard rock style. The dueling voices switched it up even further, and it was sung in the same format as their second song this night. It was quite a shocker at first hearing them do that, but there’s no doubt that they have made that song into their very own, placing a very distinctive mark on it, and it was a hell of a way to end the show.

To be the first band, and also one I had never really heard, I was thoroughly impressed by Idler. Their stage presence was on par with the other two current local acts that would follow them, and was quite fierce. Again, I love the two voices, which are really what separates Idler from most other bands, with Micah solidifying the fact that they are a harder rock outfit, while Katie gives it a more serene vibe. And even when one wasn’t adding any vocals to a song, they still rocked out to it, moving around and thrashing around slightly to the drumbeats, still being a part of it all, instead of simply standing there, waiting for their next line. I don’t want to exclude or count out the instrumentalists of the band, though, who were what made the show. Nick, Jeff and Mykey were constantly moving around the stage, shredding on their respective instruments, which really brought things to life.

They made me into a fan for sure, and I look forward to seeing them again. Speaking of which, they have a couple shows lined up at the moment. One will be on March 2nd at O’Sheas in Husrt, Texas, while the other is March 23rd at Andy’s in Denton. And if you go to those shows, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of their debut EP.

They proved to be an excellent start to the night, much better than what I was expecting, but things were about to get a lot better…

The Circle was the second band up, and personally, I was most excited about seeing them this night.

Their first song is becoming one of my favorite Circle jams, and it’s a good way to thrust the audience right into the onslaught of heavy, intense hard rock that is to come. And believe me, their shows get intense. After that opening number, frontman, Don Mills, expressed his excitement of being on this bill. “…Advent was one of my favorite bands…” he said, reminiscing about days gone by, in which he said he used to see them quite a bit, and was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to do a show with them. It had only been a month since I last them, but there were some big differences/improvements between then and now, namely the transitions from song to song. See, as Don wrapped up his thoughts, guitarists, Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls, as well as bassist, Kenneth Henrichs , played some light notes, leading into “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”. A newer song of theirs came next, which Don mentioned the title of, and if I heard him correctly it was “Wanted”. Once the group finished it, Don led a toast with the audience, toasting to local music. “…Local music is by far the greatest music that no one’s ever heard…” he said, which is all too true. The perfect segues continued, as they built up to “406”, which begins with some sweet guitar riffage. “Can I get an amen?!” bellowed Don, while that was going on. The crowd (at least some of them) obliged, shouting, “Amen!”. That’s one of their heaviest songs, with Don showing off a little more primal side of his voice, with some serious borderline screaming going on at times, but that’s also what makes a highlight of the show in my opinion. Marc Berry launched them into their next song, “I Am”, with some steady paced beats on the drums. They ran through another sweet new song, before getting to the oh so impressive, “Skeptical”, during which Kenneth added some backing vocals, which helped make the song. “What are you doing here? You look lost! You’re not from around here are you?!…” Don roared on the chorus of “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, before they got to “Somewhere”, which ends with some killer notes courtesy of Craig. Their 39-minute long set was drawing to a close, but Don wasn’t going to let it end without giving a shout out to Keith Higgs, of WK Productions, who had put this entire show together. Topic of conversation then turned to their single, which dominated the charts on 97.1 The Eagle for six straight weeks, at which point it had to be retired from their voting competition. “…This is your song…” said Don, speaking to all the fans. That of course gave it away, as they tore into “Sleep On It”, the best song in their arsenal, and it’s worthy of being their first official single.

This was the best Circle show I’ve seen, and I’d be willing to bet the best one they’ve done to date. Those transitions may seem like a subtle difference, but they made a colossal difference in their show and the overall professionalism they radiated. Even though they never bled one song right into the next, it still helped and made them appear very on point… Not that they weren’t before this.

The performance they put on is something else, and Don emits an overwhelming stage presence that is bound to draw you in, regardless of if you like their genre of music or not. This may still be a newer lineup for the band, but they are quickly ironing out what few wrinkles they have left, and tightening up in every conceivable way. So, if you haven’t heard of the Circle yet or seen a show, go fix that, because they are one of the best bands currently in D/FW.

They’ll be doing a VERY rare acoustic show this Saturday, February 23rd, at the Liquid Lounge in Dallas. Also, on Thursday, March 14th, they’ll be performing at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas. It’s the semi-final round for the Hard Rock Rising Competition and they’ll need as many fans as possible to come out and support them. They only have that one song (their single) released at the moment, and you can purchase it in iTUNES. But, to ease your wait while they work on an EP, they have some live cuts available for FREE download on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

The Circle seemed hard to top, but if any band could do it, it would be the next one, Serosia.

The curtain opened to reveal frontman, Lucas D’Agata, standing at the center of the stage, head bowed and hands behind his back. It was oddly calm for the group, as guitarist, Joseph Kuban, and bassist, Derek Troxell, stood on either side of him, also making no movement. But that peacefulness wouldn’t last long…

Joseph lit into his guitar, with he and Derek alternating riffs, as they fired up “Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars”. Once Anthony D’Agata came in on the drums, Lucas broke the tranquil demeanor he had, going wild as he proceeded to thrash around the stage. Yeah, that was more like what everyone expects out of Serosia. The pushed on with their 38-minute long set, and rounded things right into their next, “The Room”, which was one of the most extreme of their set, with Lucas screaming a large portion of the lyrics. While I’m not usually keen on stuff like that, Lucas makes it sound good, plus it fits well with the music. After a quick pause to introduce themselves and thank everyone for coming out, Lucas stated that they were going to play some songs from their new album, “Variables”, beginning with “Friendly Fire”. Anthony quickly launched them into the beast of a track, and they didn’t get much chance to catch their breath upon finishing it. “Let’s keep this motherfucker going!” shouted Lucas. “I am concealed. I am in no way…” he sang, which prompted the fans to erupt with cheers, realizing it was one of everyone’s favorites, “Criminal”. They were far from being done with their newer stuff, and had saved one of their strongest songs, “Superposition”, for right now. It fit better in the middle of the set, instead of being the closer like at the previous show of theirs that I saw. Here it helped continue the epic flow they had created, further exciting the audience, some of whom had started a mosh pit, and towards the end Lucas got some crowd participation, having everyone shout out the line, “I feel a war!…” a few times. It has only been about five months since they released their latest EP, but Serosia is one of those bands that’s always working on new material. Proving that was a song that they unveiled this night, called “Reduced to Memory”, and I dare say it was one of the best tunes I’ve heard these guys do, which is saying a lot. The mood was lightened a bit with “The Architect”, and I say “lightened” in the sense that it is not as heavy as some of their other material, which made “Sway” a good follow up for it. At times it’s a balls to the wall rock song, but it’s filled with some softer moments, like when Lucas softly croons, “…You have the power to fly but you fail to try…”. That brought them to their final song of the night, which Lucas mentioned came from their “Perspective And Balance” EP, which, along with their other records, could be bought over at their merch table after the show. The song was “Ventriloquist”, which is similar enough to their opening song that it made the two seem like bookends, and made for a fitting end to what had been an astounding set.

I’ve seen Serosia a few times now, and personally, this was the best shows I’ve seen them do. As far as performances go, you’d be hard pressed to find a band in North Texas that can one up them, let alone even hold their own against them. Hell, you could probably broaden that view to include most national acts and it would still stand true.

They put it all out there, giving 110%, and that’s obvious if you see one of their shows. You can’t even say that one is a more fierce performer than the others, as Joseph, Derek, Anthony and Lucas all bring an equal amount of energy to the show, meaning all of them are entertaining to watch.

Between their store on REVERBNATION and of course ITUNES, you can purchase all the music the band has released. And while they don’t have any shows on the books at the moment, keep an eye on their Facebook Page, because they’ll no doubt have something coming up in the near future.

That made for a fine night of current local music, but know it was time to get a little nostalgic and watch Advent. And for me, experience a Advent show for both the first and last time.

Before they started their set, vocalist, Brandan Narrell, welcomed everyone to the show. “…We’re still five fat guys who like to rock…” he said, before they tore into the first song of their epic set. Their first song sounded pretty, though it was a non-album track, so I’m clueless to what it was. Actually, the same goes for the next couple of songs. It probably shouldn’t have, but it kind of surprised me that they didn’t get right into the material from their album. But now that I think about, there are only eight songs on their record, which would explain needing more songs to fill the time. Like I said, I had never seen them before, and if I had, I would have known to expect this. After another one, Brandan kind of summed up the bands career by saying they set out to make a dent. “…And this…” he said, referring to all the people who had gathered there to see them, “…Proves we broke the windshield…”. That led them to a slightly slower song, which I think was titled “Bringing Me Down”. To be a softer song in comparison to their other stuff, they pulled it off well, and it sounded outstanding. It became apparent early that their set was going to be filled with some crude banter, so if anyone was easily offended, you were at the wrong show. For example, after that song, Brandan said something like, “The girls of Texas have the biggest tits and the tight slits, and the guys have the biggest dicks…” With that, they did a song called “Gone Again”, which led them to a very unexpected cover song. This hard rock outfit had picked a Phil Collins classic, and proceeded to perform “In the Air Tonight”. Guitarists, Josh Sanders and Derek Sanders, and bassist, Vernon Greer, made it much more gritty than the original version, putting their own spin on it, but it still maintained the same vibe as the original. I was honestly surprised Brandan could pull off more of a falsetto tone, but he did, and rather well at that. They joked afterwards that they had written that song, getting a laugh out of everybody, and after talking a little more, Brandan worked their next song title into his speech. Now they were getting to the really good stuff, with the first track of their “The Lines of Healing” album, “Better Than OK”. I had been enjoying the show thus far, but it was with that song where I really felt it take off and when I got dragged into it. The drummer, “Sonic”, did a short solo before their next song, which got a unique intro. “…As you get older,” said Brandon, “You’ll find that if it’s a pussy or an asshole, it’s always caving in.” Josh and Vernon both gave him a look like, “What the hell?” He just shrugged, as “Sonic” got “Caving In” going. “Silenced” followed it, and then another song which I assume was an original, “What I See”. They had another cover song in the chamber, though, “Policy of Truth”, which was another that they left their mark on. “We wrote that one the first day we got together…” Brandan said when they finished, and couldn’t help but laugh while he said it. “…We just got in there and were like, “This will make a good song.”, speaking of the Depeche Mode tune. He continued by stating how proud he and everyone else in the band was to be from Dallas. He again thanked everyone for coming out and supporting the bands. He then let everyone know that because of this, people continuing to support the local bands, he knew that legends like “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott of Pantera, and Drowning Pool’s original vocalist, Dave Williams, would live forever, because they could never be forgotten. They got back to business with “Everything You Know”, which combined the best of both a ballad and a rock song, sounding like the former on the verses, before getting heavier on the choruses. With “Choices”, Vernon got add some backing vocals, or rather screams, which worked perfectly with Brandans’ smoother voice, giving the song a little dose of piss and vinegar. Upon finishing it, they were told their time was almost up, resulting in them ending their 64-minute long set with “Faceless”.

It’s a good song, but didn’t offer the right note to end on, and left me wondering if they really would come back, since it was already well after one in the morning.

Some people did clear out, but they missed out, as the curtain was soon drawn apart again, with Brandan saying they didn’t get back together for this show to short their fans. Once again he thanked everyone. “You all could have gone down the street to see Sum 41…” he said. Derek, Josh, Vernon and “Sonic” then broke into a few second clip of a Sum 41 tune, which was pretty humorous. Now they got to the song every single person there had been wanting to hear, and that was “Back Down”. That offered a more appropriate end to their show, but they weren’t done yet. They invited anyone they had every shared the stage with up on stage, and two notable people were there. One was J.R. Munoz of the band Overscene, the other was accomplished singer/songwriter, Christian Sly. “This isn’t enough people. I don’t care who you are, just get up here!” said Brandan, prompting many fans to storm the stage. “…C’mon, we need to get this tighter than a nuns pussy…” he said, which they eventually did. The stage was packed, so much so that each of the guys had just enough room to take a few steps. Closing out this 12-minute encore was what I guess was another cover song, and it sounded pretty good, especially with Christian and J.R. adding their talents to it.

That was a pretty cool end to their set, seeing this fairly iconic Dallas band surrounded by their fans as they left the stage for what was in all likelihood the last time ever.

I know I never saw them back in their heyday, but I think they were every bit as good this night as they were in their prime. The Sander’s brothers were great, especially Josh, who I’m familiar with from his current band, The Commotion. I think he cut loose more here, simply because Advent’s music is easier to rock out to. And for “five fat guys” as Brandan put it (which isn’t an accurate statement), who have been out of the game for awhile, they more than held their own against all the other bands on the bill.

This was really a great night, and I’m glad I finally, after almost seven years, got to see an Advent show.  It was worth the wait.

Friday, January 4th, 2013 – Meridian

After nearly two weeks since the last concert I saw, I was itching to go somewhere to hear some live music, and this night, Trees was the only place to be.

Though it had been out for a couple of months, Meridian was finally getting around to doing an official CD release show (there’s a long story behind that), and they were headlining this night of all local rock to celebrate the release of their debut record.

Oddly enough, this was a three band bill, but while this night was lacking in numerous acts, there was an overabundance of rock, and The Circle was first to deliver it.

They got right down to business, and opened with a pretty heavy number where frontman, Don Mills, did a fair bit of screaming while he sang. It was a beast of a song, and a solid opener, though the most impressive thing so early on was how tight they appeared to be. I had seen them once before, shortly after Don had joined the band when they played a show for RYA Entertainment (co-founded by WhiskeyBoy Radio and myself). It was a good show then, but you could tell were still finding their groove. Well, it was noticeable right of the bat this night that they have since found it, and have become quite the cohesive unit. After that song, Don made a little speech about the local music community, thanking everyone for coming out to support all the bands this night and that it wouldn’t be possible without them. Afterwards, they started another pretty intense song, “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”. Afterwards, Don had a question for the audience. “…Who was the last band played on the [radio station] The Eagle in twenty-twelve?!” They had some devoted fans out this night, who yelled in response, “The Circle!” “That’s right. And only one band gets to say that.” He added, as his band mates started into their next tune, which I think they said was a fairly new one. As they finished up what was a slightly slower song for them, they wound it into another rocker, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”. Upon finishing it, Don referred to this as “church”, which effectively made the crowd their congregation, all of whom seemed anxious as to what would continue their “sermon”. Next up they did one which I believe Don later added they had not played since their show at the House of Blues, all the way back in June. “How many of you were there?” he roared, and was answered with some applause. Drummer, Marc Berry, led them into their next song, “I Am”, which quickly exploded Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls, the lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist, respectively, and bassist, Kenneth Henrichs, tore into it. After another song, which, if memory serves me correctly, was another one they hadn’t played live in awhile and had dusted off for this show, they started to wrap up their set with “Somewhere”. The song has some sweet guitar licks from Craig, and towards the end of the song he indulged everyone with a stellar solo, where he really shredded on his guitar. During the brief silence that followed after that song, one fan made a request, shouting out, “Sleep On It!” It’s the bands newest single, and so far the only one they’ve released featuring Don at the helm. It’s also arguable the best song in their arsenal, and like any professional, national level touring band, they had saved the best for last. It’s hands down an incredible song, and while it was acted as a nice conclusion to their set, it also left you wishing they could have done more than just a 36-minute long set.

You could tell the band has done a lot of growing during the last six months, which can no doubt be attributed to a great deal of practice at rehearsals, and subsequently honed their live performance with their consistent schedule of shows.

They were a fine tuned machine, and every bit as good as the two acts that would go on after them. In some aspects, even a little better, and because of that The Circle should be a band you familiarize yourself with, and do it pronto.

They have some songs you can download from their REVERBNATION PAGE, all of which are live cuts, and most of them feature Don as the singer. Then you have the single, “Sleep On It”, which you can purchase in iTunes. Now once you do that, you’ll probably be wanting to see a show, and they do have a big one coming up in February. On the 2nd they’ll be at the Curtain Club in Dallas, as one of the acts opening the reunion show for the band Advent. That’s going to be an impressive night of music so, don’t miss it.

After them was the only out of town band, and that was Austin’s own, Dawn Over Zero.

It’s well documented on here how much I love that band, though it had been about ten months since the last time I had seen them. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear what they had in store this night.

Their 39-minute long set began with the lead track from their “Unity & Division” album, “Caricatures”. It’s one of the most fiery tracks from the record, and was a good choice as an opener, as it immersed everyone into the straight up rock sounds their ears would be enjoying. Bassist, Jonathan Boyce, quickly gave a shout out to The Circle for opening, and before he could completely finish, singer and rhythm guitarist, Mike Mears, and lead guitarist, Steven Abbenante, fired up “Catapult”. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking that tune was absent the last time I saw them, but either way, it was good to hear it again, as it is one of their catchiest. Steven didn’t even take a break, switching the final note of that song into the first one of their next one, a classic from their self-titled EP, “Take You Under”. Nothing against their new stuff, because I do love it, but there’s something about those older ones that are downright amazing. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that I like the chorus, “Well you take another trip, crossing the lines and now it’s time to stray from all the steps that may take you under…”. Of course the bulk of their set did come from their new album, though, and they pushed on with “Kidney Stone”, which is much more enjoyable than the name might suggest. They did pause occasionally between some of the remaining songs, but only long enough to thank Trees for hosting the show, the people for coming out, or the other bands on the bill. And it was after that, that they began a favorite of mine, “Short On a Dime”, followed by one of their best songs. “This sounds like a workout video, doesn’t it?” Mike asked, doing something that resembled a jumping jack and looked like it belonged in a jazzercise video, all while Steven played his part of “Give and Take”. Those chords alone sound incredible, and the fact that he cranked it out for a few seconds before his band mates joined in only enhanced the tune. The show then took a turn and got a little humorous, as Mike stated that the day before he had been threatened on Facebook. Saying he had been told that if they didn’t do this song, than their trailer would be vandalized. It probably wasn’t a credible threat, since it came from a member of the previous band, but he joked that he didn’t want to take any chances. The song that had been requested was a cover of a Johnny Hates Jazz tune that can be found on their record, and that song is “Shattered Dreams”. Mike sang the first verse (or maybe a little more) almost a cappella, with only Steven adding some very soft guitar notes over his voice. It was a stellar extra touch, but soon, fill-in drummer , Kevin Abbenante, (their master drummer, Mack Linan, was ill with the flu) busted into it, and really got the song underway. “How much time to we have left?” Mike asked the sound guy when they finished. Ten minutes was the answer, giving them enough time for two more, one of which is my favorite DOZ song and one I had not heard in an incredible long time. With all their new(er) material, “The Confidence” has become a deeper cut, and one that, at least based on the last few times I’ve seen them, has been seldom heard. In fact, I was afraid it may have been cut from the live show all together, so I was ecstatic when they started it. And for the record, it sounded even better than I remembered. Only one song remained at this point, and I assumed it came down to one of their two lead singles. “…This is the single from our first record.” Announced Mike, as they oddly (though thankfully) decided to end with the epic, “Circulation”.

This was as solid a set as any band could hope to do, and while I was surprised that “Carry Me Home” (their most recent single) was missing from the setlist, I’m okay with that, because I enjoy everything they did do so much more. Plus, it was just an amazing selection of songs.

I’ve seen more than a few DOZ shows, and this was the best in my opinion. It exemplified what the band is all about, and that is a high-energy live show (with tons of racing and jumping around the stage) that engages the listener, regardless of if they’re already a fan or are having their first ever Dawn Over Zero experience.

They’re a great band, and one to check out. One way to do that is of course by purchasing their music in ITUNES, and you can also find a couple of free downloads on their REVERBNATION PAGE. You can also go out to a live show, and while they don’t have any scheduled at this moment, keep a check on their Facebook or Reverbnation pages.

It was a little after eleven o’clock at this point, and approaching time for Meridian to take the stage.

They originally had a CD release show booked here in late October, but due to Trees being double booked, their show got cut. And while they had not done an official CD release show any time since, their EP had been available at both shows and online. In some ways, maybe that did diminish the excitement level that usually surrounds CD release shows, but still, this was a CD release show, and those are always ones for the books.

They ripped right into it, opening with “Re-digress”. I’m still not used to the new version of it, and couple that with the fact that I hadn’t seen the band in months either, and I didn’t even remember what song it was at first. I only recognized it when frontman, Tim Ziegler, sang the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say, words only get in the way.” Killer opener, and while I do still miss the original version of the song (which used those last few lines as the chorus), this new incarnation is more polished and has some sweet notes courtesy of guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved. Following it up was their first song of the night from the EP, and that was “All Hands”. It was the best I’ve heard the song sound, and somehow it was also the first time I really took notice of the chorus, “I heard you call for me, but I could not be there, and you are wanting something that I forgot so long ago. And I have found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…”, which Tim crooned quite well, considering he was ill with the flu. Chris Gentry stepped up as the song concluded, and kept riffing on his bass, doing a brief solo which segued it into their next song, which was a newer one. Upon finishing it, they took a break, during which Tim mentioned his sickness and pulled out a bottle Singers Saving Grace throat spray. “…Let’s see if this works…” he said, testing it out, and also making a few wisecracks about it. They got back to it with their most aggressive song, “Nights Like This”. I’m not sure if the throat spray helped Tim or not, but it couldn’t have hurt either, because he sounded basically as good on it now as he has every other time I’ve heard them play it. A couple more tunes followed, the latter of which was an incredible sounding new one, while preceding it was what strikes me as being a fan favorite, and the chorus goes something like, “…This is war. The city is going to burn tonight…” Before moving on, Tim took a moment to plug their album. “…Let me tell you something about it. It cost eight thousand dollars to make. So go buy a copy. I think they’re only, like, five bucks… So at the very least you’ll have a cool coaster…” I already had plans to buy the CD, but hearing that only reinforced why I needed to. After he finished his speech, the sample track began for their next song, “The fire starts and ends.” It repeated a few times, with Tim adding, “With you.” to it to officially begin “Starts & Ends”. I said once before that was unsure about their tweaked version of this one, since the lyrics were what really drew it to me. But after hearing the recording of the new incarnation, I can say I still love it just as much as the old one… Maybe even more so. His voice may not have been one hundred percent, and while Tim has always been capable of a goofball personality on stage, he really seemed to let it shine through now, almost to compensate for the other areas. For example, during that song, he began thrusting his hips and humping the air. It was a nice dose of comic relief so to speak, and it only got better with their next song. “Lazy Eye” is another newer addition to the live set, and is not only a remarkable song, but was also the best one of their set this night. It just sounded better than anything else during their set, and while belting out the lyrics, Tim made his way around the stage, first to stage left to hump Mark, then over Shannon, where he proceeded to grind against his band mate. It was wrong, but oh so funny. “We have a couple songs left…” Tim stated, leading them into their “slow” tune, “Train”, which is also rather beautiful. That then took them to the final song of their 41-minute long set, as Mark began the song, before drummer, Joe Maurer, busted them into “Hey Lover”.

Considering Tim’s illness with the flu, it was a good show. Though I’d be remiss if I said it was flawless. There were just a few times I heard his voice crack, or you could tell he wanted to step it up on a part, but just couldn’t take it to where he wanted to. I can’t really fault the guy, though, because how many singers would still perform if their instrument was compromised like that? I doubt many would.

In every other aspect, though, it was pretty solid.

You can find the bands EP on iTunes, and by all means, go buy it. You’ll be glad you did. They also have at least one show coming up, and it will take place on February 9th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth.

The only bad thing about this show was the lack of people. It was an amazing lineup, but there were maybe fifty or so people there throughout the entire night. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but pathetic is the best word I can think of to describe the turnout, and it should have been much better than this. Oh, well. It’s too late to do anything now, and at least those who did show up where true, diehard fans of the bands.

The Circle


Dawn Over Zero